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PostPosted: Mon Feb 27, 2012 7:52 am 
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Posted on behalf of Nikki:

I met a mountaineer / guide in Argentina recently who told me about an expedition-gone-wrong in 2005.

He and his partner were heading back down a peak in the Cordillera Blanca and met 3 South Africans on their way up. They were planning to bag a few peaks that trip.

A short while later, the Argentine team had a serious accident. The first climber fell several meters down a frozen waterfall when the abseil anchor came out. The guy I met was left at the top, with no sound from the fallen climber, and no rope to descend. He called out to the SA team for help, got a response and anxiously waited for assistance. A long while later, he went to see where they were, only to find them continuing to ascend the mountain, leaving him to solo down the waterfall. He found his partner alive but battered, perched on a ledge just before a second definitely-fatal fall. They made it out okay, but things could have been dire for both of them.

Was it right for the SA team (they were aiming for 3 peaks) to continue on their route?
What would you have done?
Nikki

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 27, 2012 10:44 am 
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By today's ethics in the mountains they did the generally accepted thing of pushing on, Somebody Else's Problem... Read Dark Shadows Falling by Joe Simpson, it is all about the loss of community in the mountains and the rise of selfishness. It begins with an account of a climber dying on the South Col of Everest because none of the others in the tents around there (within a 100m) could be bothered to pull him a tent. They all just leave him to die because looking after him would have spoiled their summit bid the following day.

The increase in commercially guided trips seems to have created this (to a certain extent), climbers pay huge sums of money to be guided up peaks (particularly Everest) and therefore are unwilling to compromise their trip because of the perceived loss of money. Also, because the trip is commercial, each person there is only there to further their own goals, they owe no one any allegiance, they are not friends with their teammates and seemingly many of them will not hesitate to walk over the still warm bodies of their teammates on their way to the summit.

If I was there I'd help out without a moments hesitation, but that's just me and I cannot speak for everyone.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 27, 2012 11:05 am 
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If someone's in trouble, you help them out, period. I've never climbed any big mountains, but I find it very strange that a different set of morals/ethics seems to apply as soon as you step on a mountain. To me it would make more sense that there be an even higher set of ethics due to the very arena and nature of the sport...in contrast, this sounds more like the selfish "dog eat dog" mentality one sees in society at large.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 27, 2012 11:50 am 
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well, there's always two sides to a story. if the above account is true i would be desperately disappointed in those saffas. really, there is more to life than bagging the next peak; your character, your values and ethics - those are things that will define your life.

that said, one has to remember that major big mountain expeditions costs big moolah - spending R200+k on an everest expedition is a huge and often once-off commitment to try and fulfill a lifetime dream. should you sacrifice that dream because somebody else took undue risk / suffered bad fortune? personally i would like to think that we will value a life more than it, but who knows how you will react in those extreme conditions. the '96 Everest debacle is a good example.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 27, 2012 12:05 pm 
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I have never been to that sort of altitude but I've heard several people speak about it and it seems to vary from person to person. Both Chris Bonington and Doug Scott were adamant that they would help both their friends and others out and they have done so. A South African (can't remember his name) who summited Everest on a guided expedition and on his way down passed a Korean climber at the Hillary Step who had collapsed, stopped, gave him a jacket and carried on making no attempt to help him further. He said that he knew the Korean would die but could not afford morality at that altitude. Never having been there I struggle to relate but I hope that I would have at least made an attempt to help him down the mountain, I cannot imagine just leaving someone there to die.

At the lower altitudes of the Andes, hell yes I'd stop and help, that is for sure.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 27, 2012 12:12 pm 
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yeah nic i agree with you. jon krakauer laid it into the south african '96 everest team because they refused to make their oxygen available for others. the response was that the saffas were feeling hard done by because they reckoned they were putting themselves at risk to help guys that should have turned around and not pushed for the summit..... who knows. but i agree that the heroics and selfless commitment to safe another; in spite of your own goals; deserves higher praise.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 27, 2012 12:15 pm 
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mokganjetsi wrote:
i agree that the heroics and selfless commitment to safe another; in spite of your own goals; deserves higher praise.

Well said

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2012 9:05 am 
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I would like to believe that the South African's actions were the result of a misunderstanding - it is quite conceivable that they did not realize someone was needing help. Otherwise their actions are abhorrent and completely inexcusable in my opinion. And a sad indictment on the state of climbing and climbers. No one I have ever climbed with, or would ever want to climb with, would knowingly choose such a course of action. Perhaps its different on Everest, I don't know, but in the Cordierra Blanca, where I have climbed myself, there is no excuse for such action - you are far from the death zone, altitude wise, and a summit bid is a lot less critical - could easily be delayed.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2012 9:32 am 
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Just imagine if you needed help and everyone just left you.
That must be so so terrible. Just watching them walk by...
Stuck on a mountain, people able to, but not willing to help. Thats sad.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2012 9:52 am 
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I'm not so sure about this: "Help thy neighbor" business.....

What happened to "Survival of the Fittest" and "Natural Selection" ?

The planet currently has 7 Billion people.
We are currently using half of the available fresh water on the planet. Yes 1/2.

By 2050 we will be 14 Billion people.
Thus using ALL the available fresh water on the planet.

If you have a baby today, he will be 38 years old when we run out of water.

We have 26 years of oil left.
So your baby will be 26 when New York and Cape Town switches off the last refrigerator, drives the last car, and uses the last lift to the 28th floor.

Perhaps humanity should revisit the Philosophical, Ethical, Religious and Practical implications of helping everybody in need.



Just saying, that's all......



(I would be extremely upset if anybody left me to suffer or die in the mountains though. The hypocrite that I am)


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2012 10:04 am 
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Haha! Thanks Hann :thumleft: I like your approach :jocolor: unfortunately the international climbing community accounts for such a small percentage of the worlds population, it'll hardly make a dent. We should rather employ those tactics on the road. If you're on a bicycle you're safe. If you're in a car - GAME ON! Less people. Less oil usage. Less pollution. Sorted 8)

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2012 10:21 am 
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If you are part of a team of six climbers at altitude and you come accross one climber in serious trouble ie.pulmonary oedema, severe frost bite, basically on death's doorstep etc, would you be able to justify putting six climbers lives at risk for the sake of one?

What happens if you are in trouble but still able to get down alive and you come accross a climber in a worse condition than you are? Do you risk dying to try and save that climber?

I don't think it's always about summiting or helping someone

Surely there are way more factors playing a role that high up

I have never climbed big mountains or at those types of altitudes but you have to keep on making decisions (right or wrong) and making judgment calls even though they may be morally unacceptable by the masses who are not in your shoes

Surely when you climb at that level in big mountains you have to make peace with the fact that these risks are involved

What is morally acceptable to one person may very well be unacceptable to another

It would be a whole different story if you left someone on Africa Ledge

Tough one this!

We can only speculate if you have never been in a situation like this yourself

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2012 10:57 am 
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Hann wrote:
What happened to "Survival of the Fittest" and "Natural Selection" ?


That’s exactly why I hate Darwin.
Let’s all just NOT help others. In fact lets back stab our neighbours if it benafits us, cheat on your wife, as long as she doesn't find out it can’t harm her, steal, lie, do whatever you want pretty much.
Why not just kill the people we don’t like, you know them weak ones? and just name it "Natural Selection" or "Survival of the Fittest"

Yea I know the above is taking it to the extreme, but this survival of the fittest nonsense is no help to mankind.

The climbing community in general has a high ethical standard: Returning lost gear, being honest, not stealing, etc.
But these ethical standards use to just be the norn in western culture.

Unfortunately western culture has deteriorated with this stupid "Survival of the Fittest" theory where most people have become so selfish and greedy they feel nothing taking from others, not helping others in need, stealing, littering, etc, etc, etc.

The above is in no way a personal attack on you Han, I just disagree with your Darwinian theory. If you are ever stuck on a mountain dying ill still help you :thumright


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2012 11:06 am 
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....you have to remember that alpine climbers in general are super fit and very accomplished!

Joe Simpson and Simon Yates come to mind!

Would you have cut the rope? :shock:

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2012 11:33 am 
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Hi guys, just a couple of things: Off topic but it gets my goat when people are ignorant.....

The "fittest" can be the most loving and selfless, not the most aggressive and violent. In any case, what happens in nature does not justify people behaving in the same way

The phrase "survival of the fittest", which was coined not by Darwin but by the philosopher Herbert Spencer, is widely misunderstood.

For starters, there is a lot more to evolution by natural selection than just the survival of the fittest. There must also be a population of replicating entities and variations between them that affect fitness - variation that must be heritable. By itself, survival of the fittest is a dead end. Business people are especially guilty of confusing survival of the fittest with evolution.

What's more, although the phrase conjures up an image of a violent struggle for survival, in reality the word "fittest" seldom means the strongest or the most aggressive. On the contrary, it can mean anything from the best camouflaged or the most fecund to the cleverest or the most cooperative. Forget Rambo, think Einstein or Gandhi.

What we see in the wild is not every animal for itself. Cooperation is an incredibly successful survival strategy. Indeed it has been the basis of all the most dramatic steps in the history of life. Complex cells evolved from cooperating simple cells. Multicellular organisms are made up of cooperating complex cells. Superorganisms such as bee or ant colonies consist of cooperating individuals.

Natural selection is simply a description of what happens in the living world. It does not tell us how we should behave.

Thanks
Ian


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2012 11:54 am 
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I'd take what Hann says with a pinch of salt, the guy was part of Mountain Rescue for several years... I spy a troll :lol:

My point is that many people have been rescued from altitude (injured and and uninjured, ask Doug Scott about the Ogre) and therefore leaving someone to die is to my mind unacceptable, you have to at least make an attempt to help them.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2012 2:18 pm 
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DavidWade wrote:
If you are ever stuck on a mountain dying ill still help you

I'm actually a little touched :thumleft:

@ Nic,
Not quite a troll.

I would genuinely like to know WHY
Nic Le Maitre wrote:
have to at least make an attempt to help them.


Other than emotional guilt I can't see a practical or philosophical reason to do so.

This then also opens the following debate:

The 2 edged sword.....
1) Give a rational reason to save somebody from a mountain (not emotional nor religious)
2) Show that it is not murder if you indeed left somebody to die.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2012 2:57 pm 
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Justin wrote:
Posted on behalf of Nikki: He called out to the SA team for help, got a response and anxiously waited for assistance.

I hear what Hann is saying, but this guy got a response from the SA team. Had they communicated that they would not be assisting him, then this would be a slightly different debate.

Further speculation - I wonder if it was a guided group being taken up the mountain?
It would have been up to the ‘leader/guide’ to make the call? The guide perhaps thought "I don't want to put my clients in danger?"
Did the clients agree, thinking “I paid for my safety with a guide, that injured guy should have done the same!?”

As terrible a story this is, having only one side to the story it is very hard to speculate what happened.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2012 3:22 pm 
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I don't think the natural selection argument really applies and it is misunderstanding of how evolution works in anyway. Evolution is not quite that simple and it works in many ways. Social behaviour also has a strong evolutionary benefit and as social mammals a certain amount of altruism is bred into our genes and it results in a overall positive effect for us as a species. One will find individuals in all social animal groups that take advantages of the system for their own gain, but due to the nature of this it is always a small percentage. i.e. if too many individuals do this you have a break down of the social structure and the groups survival goes out of the window. Essentially you therefore have selection that happened over long period that favors altruistic behaviour over behaviour that doesn't favor the group. As an intelligent self aware species we hate to admit that many of our choices are based on selection going back millenia instead of conscious choice.

Anyway thats a long and interesting discussion in it's own right and it got me all excited because it reminds me of time long ago when I looked at these things in my post grad studies.

Coming back to the point, leaving a climber on everest is one thing (i've never been there so rightly I cannot judge but would like to think that I would try and make a effort if the person can realistically be helped). Leaving people to their own devices in a range like the cordillera blanca is in my opinion the same as leaving someone on Kili to die because you do not want to miss your summit attempt. I hope when I someday find myself in one of these mountains I do not climb with people willing to do this. It's a personal point of view, but putting summiting an amateur peak above someone else life is simply just sad.


Last edited by Chris on Tue Feb 28, 2012 3:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2012 3:40 pm 
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Hann wrote:
I would genuinely like to know WHY
Nic Le Maitre wrote:
have to at least make an attempt to help them.


Other than emotional guilt I can't see a practical or philosophical reason to do so.


You are correct, there is no reason to help others from a purely rational standpoint. It gains you nothing and you have the potential to lose everything. That does not change the fact that I would try to help, simply because that is the way my brain is wired.

I don't have a rational explanation for it

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2012 3:59 pm 
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Hann wrote:
This then also opens the following debate:

The 2 edged sword.....
1) Give a rational reason to save somebody from a mountain (not emotional nor religious)
2) Show that it is not murder if you indeed left somebody to die.


If you exclude emotion and religion, then there is no reason.

If emotion were excluded from life, there would be no compassion. Everyone would live for themselves. No one would help anyone because no one would care for anyone but them self. But what a sad existence life without emotion would be.
If you exclude religion there is no basis for ethical standards (I know some people will disagree on this point)

So if you exclude emotion and religion, there is no reason.
But they are both part of life and as a result influence human behaviour


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2012 4:05 pm 
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There is a very valid rational reason in the long run.. you might need help in the future!

Me: I would turn around and help. With or without a rational reason.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2012 5:17 pm 
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right now there are people dying within 30mins from where you live. AIDS, unhygienic circumstances, malnutrition, cold & hunger. what are you doing about that? :bom:


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2012 5:25 pm 
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Uuush..Willem, nasty truth!


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2012 5:45 pm 
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I wrote this article a few years ago and it was published in the Cape Times...

Damned if you do and Damned if you don’t.


I read an article in the Cape Times called “Cold Hearted Indifference to life as scores do their glory hike up mighty Everest”. It lacks insight and the writer compares an experience where somebody suffered a minor injury in circumstances where it appears there were extensive resources to provide assistance. The writer considered his initial thoughts to be selfish by not wanting to assist but perhaps the reason he inconvenienced himself to assist this person was for truly selfish reasons. He would, as I am sure most ordinary people would, have felt awful if he did not assist and that would weigh on his conscience for the rest of his life. On the other hand assisting was hardly damning but a mere inconvenience – a rather different level of sacrifice than on Everest in the death zone!

I have been a climber for 30 years. You won’t find me dead on Everest (please excuse the cliché,) even though I have the resources and the experience to have a far better than average crack at summiting. I don’t want to be faced with a decision of having to assist someone that is going to die despite any efforts of mine and that would potentially compromise my ascent and risk my life and my companions. Bottom line is you have to resolve to walk over dead or dying bodies to succeed. It is a choice I don’t make. I also don’t want be one of those dying bodies that compromises other people in forcing them into impossible judgement calls.

To some extent I liken climbing Everest to my profession. I have been a medical doctor and Orthopaedic surgeon for more than 30 years. The vast majority of the work I have done has been on trauma victims. I have made many decisions to amputate a limb or that have resulted in someone dying; it is not easy and I (and I am sure most of my colleagues) carry a huge burden that wears us down. My experience has shown that the majority of my “customers” otherwise known as patients are no different to the “trippers” on Everest:

• The majority of accident victims are responsible in one way or another for their injuries (alcohol abuse being the most prevalent reason).
• When expectations are not met the doctor becomes the “whipping boy.” There is an adage that goes: if you amputate a seriously injured limb immediately after an accident, it is the cause of the accident; but if you amputate a week later it’s the doctor’s fault!
• In most instances I care more for my patients than they care for themselves as most abrogate the responsibility of taking care of their health (unhealthy life styles) and paying for it (more than 50% bad debt rate if you charge an appropriate professional fee that the medical aid does not fully cover.)
• There is a serious personal health risk as a result of the lifestyle choices that many of my patients make that would also seriously negatively affect my family if I were to fall ill.

So as with finding a person dying on Everest, I feel damned if I practise my profession and I certainly feel damned if I don’t. But my profession is what I am stuck with after having been brainwashed into it and the Hippocratic oath many years ago.

Public sentiment has been driven by the media and the glory accolades associated with climbing Everest will cause many more deaths and many more of those that come back will be damned. It is a mountain that occasionally brings out the best in some people but has a reputation of too often bringing out the worst. In 1996, the first year that two major commercial parties attempted the summit, Fisher and Hall the leaders of each party, could not return alive without being damned. I am sure they chose death rather damnation.

So we can’t judge, criticise, compare our personal experiences or even comment from down here. Up there it is a simple matter of you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t – nothing more and nothing less.

Oh, I almost forgot; you could just be damn lucky to get away with it all but then it begs the questions of why attempt it all? And how do you rationalize the accolades bestowed on the summiteers?


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2012 6:07 pm 
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mokganjetsi wrote:
right now there are people dying within 30mins from where you live. AIDS, unhygienic circumstances, malnutrition, cold & hunger. what are you doing about that? :bom:


I like you dude....

Not in a homoerotic kind of way though :mrgreen:


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