Friday, May 26, 2006


"WELLINGTON, New Zealand - Mount Everest pioneer Sir Edmund Hillary said Wednesday he was shocked that dozens of climbers left a British mountaineer to die during their own attempts on the world's tallest peak. David Sharp, 34, died while descending from the summit during a solo climb last week, apparently of oxygen deficiency."
The news report says that at least 40 mountain climbers passed the solo climber who was descending the mountain. It was obvious that he was in serious trouble but none turned back to save him.

A man who decides to climb the world's tallest peak has obviously considered the possibility of dying on such a trek. As a matter of fact, when Sharp's mother was concerned that he was climbing solo, he told her not to worry because on Mt. Everest you are never alone (this was according to a Nightline report, 6/2/2006). A climber knows the stakes are high should something go wrong. But does knowing the risk relieve fellow enthusiast of the responsibility to help when it is needed? The forty climbers who kept climbing while a man lay dying will have to think long and hard about the decision they made that day.

To do the right thing, one's compassion for human life must override the desires for personal glory in the climb. In Luke 10:29ff, Jesus tells the story of the "good Samaritan". In answering the question, "who is my neighbor":
30 Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii [3] and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, 'Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.' 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?" 37 He said, "The one who showed him mercy." And Jesus said to him, "You go, and do likewise."
Jesus showed that our neighbor is the one we have the ability to help when he cannot help himself. The man's compassion took precedence over his business affairs. How much more so would that be true of sports!

The moral and ethical thing to do? New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark described Sharp's death as a "complex" tragedy and said his family had not suggested other climbers should have stopped for him. "From a personal point of view I have considerable sympathy for what Sir Edmund Hillary has said, but he's probably also reflecting on the fact that ethics around mountaineering may well change over time as well," (Click here for full article). On the other hand, Sir Edmund Hillary is quoted as saying in an interview with New Zealand Press: "Human life is far more important than just getting to the top of a mountain, . . ." He also said: "There have been a number of occasions when people have been neglected and left to die, and I don't regard this as a correct philosophy," he told the Otago Daily Times. "The whole attitude toward climbing Mount Everest has become rather horrifying. The people just want to get to the top," he told the newspaper. Hillary told New Zealand Press Association he would have abandoned his own pioneering climb to save another's life. I couldn't agree with Edmund Hillary more, but a godless society won't have the right attitudes, values, and philosophies. This change in values is not just a change, it is a decline in values.

The climbers justify their failure to do more saying they couldn't put the safety of their own climbers at risk. Sure, the weather was severe with minus 100 degree temps, but it wasn't severe enough for them to halt the climb. The climbers say they could do nothing to save the dying man. Even if true, wouldn't the humane, compassionate person stay and give comfort? Both to go down with the man or to continue to the top entailed risks. Even if there was more risks to their safety if they stopped the climb and helped the dying man down, wouldn't that be the only right choice to make? Despite their protests, it sounds more like they weren't willing to jeapardize their chance of personally reaching the summit of the mountain. But look what it has gotten them. Fame? No. Glory? No. Scorn? Yes. There will always be something unmentionable about their climb of Mt. Everest.

This godless age has made man worse, and not better. Jesus taught that the two greatest commandments are to love God and then your neighbor. I am sincere when I say that I feel pity for every climber who made the decision to keep ascending instead of saving the man. Too bad for them that they didn't do the important thing. Even for climbers, with all of the anticipated risks, it is still important to love. On that day of May 15, 2006, each man had an opportunity to do something truly good, sacrificial, and noble, but none chose it. Imagine how much better the man would be who said to the fellow climbers, "you go ahead, I'm staying here until this man gets help." I am certain that had there been a Good Samaritan present, the story would be an uplifting and inspiring one. But as it is, there is nothing and no one to cheer for: just sadness and pity to be offered.

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