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Friday, June 09, 2006

Ethics questioned on Everest

Former Shreveporter Joby Ogwyn was among the dozens of people who were on Mount Everest in the just completed summit season. Ogwyn attempted a speed record ascent (without supplemental oxygen) from the world's highest mountain's north (Tibetan) side. According to his reports on a Web site, Ogwyn made two attempts in May, reaching 8,600 meters (about an hour from the summit) on the first one, but bad weather forced him to turn back both times. Ogwyn had already summitted Everest once, in 1999, and at that time was the youngest American to do so.
But Ogywn wasn't involved in the biggest story on Everest this season. British climber David Sharp was one of 11 climbers who died on the mountain. According to media and Web site reports, about 40 climbers passed Sharp on the way to the summit and did not render aid. Among those was Mark Inglis, who was another big story because he was the first double amputee to reach the summit. According to reports, Inglis at least stopped to check on Sharp, who was in a place called rock cave.
The climbers' actions have been criticized by everyone from Sir Edmund Hillary, who along with Tenzing Norgay was the first to reach the summit in 1953, and columnist Rick Reilly in this week's Sports Illustrated.
Another climber, Australia's Lincoln Hall, was also left for dead but later rescued by American guide Dan Mazur and others and survived.
I don't pretend to be a mountain climbing expert (the closest I've gotten to Everest is the new Expedition Everest roller coaster at Walt Disney World last month), but I have read several books about Everest, written about Ogwyn and am interested in the subject.
It's difficult to believe that someone could simply pass by another person in need of help. People now pay thousands of dollars to reach the summit, and helping Sharp may have meant abandoning that goal. Still, that's hardly a good excuse.
There have also been arguments that trying to rescue someone at high altitude puts even more people at risk. And by some accounts, Sharp was beyond hope.
Still, if you find someone alive that's in need of help, it seems to me you are obligated to render aid. It is simply the right thing to do, even though the rescue attempt could fail.
Lincoln Hall's story suggests that, if someone had decided to take action, David Sharp might be alive today.

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