Human decency has eroded on Everest. I can’t imagine being so blinded by my own drive to summit a mountain that I’d let a fellow human die. This is what occurs on Everest more and more and it is abhorrent and simply wrong. What has happened to acting in accordance with the golden rule, treating others as we would like to be treated? No summit is worth allowing a fellow human to die for.

Those not making a serious attempt to help or save fellow mountaineers have #bloodontheirmittens.

There is a code among mountaineers. The UIAA, International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation states about values: “Human dignity, in keeping with Article 1 of the UN Bill of Human Rights, the Code is based on the premise that human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and should act towards one another in the spirit of brotherhood.”

Yes the altitude, extreme exertion and fatigue play a role in how people behave. It’s life and death up there. We know that bringing someone down from the death zone is problematic, even for the strongest guides. Let us remember Rob Hall and Doug Hansen in 1996 and Rob’s choice to try to save Doug and ultimately to die with him, leaving his wife and young daughter without a husband and father. This story is portrayed in the soon to be released movie Everest a film directed by Baltasar Kormákur.

The lack of experience of clients and the interest of money on the part of the guides, coupled with the challenges of a rescue from the death zone makes this something we are sure to witness again and again. The clients simply do not have the experience to make decisions in the face of extreme danger in order to keep it together and make logical decisions at altitude. But the fact that Everest climbers, both guides and clients, let personal ambition and financial gain trump kindness in the mountains is a choice with consequences for all.

Don’t let ego and personal ambition get in the way of making the right decision

Those who pass up the opportunity to act with decency live with the effects of their choices. I know from my own selfish behavior the darkness I’ve brought into my life. I imagine the suffering of those who’ve chosen to reach for the summit over protecting a human life, on Everest and other mountains. The pains of their decisions run deep and many wish they could go back and change their actions. My heart goes out to them.

Let us take these sad events and learn to act with kindness towards ourselves and our brothers and sisters, whether together on a rope or down below when the situation is not so complicated and dire. Let us all take a deep breath, tapping into our inner wisdom, and remember the golden rule, to treat other’s as we’d like to be treated. And do it, here and now.


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