Marc Inglis, a New Zealander and mountaineer was recently the first double amputee to reach the summit of Mount Everest. He lost his lower legs to frostbite from earlier climbing exploits.
Remarkable story – but one that is incomplete. Mr Inglis and his team of climbers came across a stricken lone climber at 8500m up the mountain who was headed down from the summit and had run out of oxygen and was dying. Inglis and team were heading up – and kept on climbing, leaving David Sharp to die alone on the cold mountain.
Sure, they made a radio call to base and had a chat about what to do amongst themselves, decided Sharp was beyond saving and left him to continue their "amazing, stuff of dreams" ascent.
I think that perhaps when Inglis lost his legs he also lost his humanity and conscience. Apparently he may lose some fingers from the last climb, I suggest he has lost a lot more than digits, he’s lost any right to respect.
In his defence, Inglis points out that almost 40 other climbers also passed Sharp by and that it is almost impossible to rescue someone at that altitude. But he was self-admittedly one of the first to find Sharp. My response – maybe 40 other climbers did pass him, but Inglis and his team found him first – alive (if barely) and did nothing. Not even to provide comfort to a dying man – Inglis’s own summit was too important to him.
Here’s a telling quote from this link.
One of Inglis’ climbing companions, Wayne Alexander, of Christchurch, told a British newspaper: "We came across a chap sheltering under a rock who was perhaps hours from death. That was probably only two and a half hours into the climb. He had made a mistake the day before. He started too late and couldn’t get off the mountain."
So let’s get this straight – Inglis and team were two and half hours into their climb – presumably from their camp. They come across a ‘chap’ who was ‘perhaps hours from death’. So, he might have made it back to their camp alive, with help. But that day there was no help, only thoughts of self aggrandizement and personal glory.
You may or may not agree with me, but wouldn’t you hope for the best and give it your all to save the stricken climber? Did NASA give up on the Apollo 13 astronauts?
Now Inglis has returned to the civilized world and is affronted that he is being criticized for his inaction. Tough. If he wanted to be a true inspiration and hero he could have tried something, anything to help a fellow man out – and that would have earned him positive headlines around the globe for sure. Instead his achievement is seen as happening in the context of a lost life and is tainted. Inglis has only himself to blame, let’s hope he remembers that when he looks in the mirror but should he forget then perhaps the words of his personal hero Sir Edmund Hilary will echo in his mind…
"If he’d been a Swiss or from Timbuktu or whatever that didn’t matter," Hillary said in a television interview. "He’s a human being, and we would regard it as our duty to get him back to safety."
UPDATE: Drudge has picked up on this story with a link to the Buffalo News, there is more from Sir Edmund Hillary – and I agree with everything that the climbing legend says.
UPDATE #2: I’ve been trackbacked by Blue Crab Boulevard, a fellow member of the 101st Fighting KeeBee’s -and traffic is up mightily. Not that it takes much to increase traffic on my little bloglet. Thanks to BCB for the link, and to new readers – welcome and please visit again!
UPDATE #3: I really hope that Inglis reads this story about a similar situation where every effort was made to save a climber that had already been reported dead. He’s alive, and all because some fellow climbers risked everthing to help a man in need. I don’t think he’s fully safe yet, but Hall has a chance that Inglis denied Sharp.