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I can't find enough details to come to a moral decision on the subject of David Sharp, the man who died on Everest as "forty people" climbed up past him.

It seems to be the case that the dying climber was trying to make the ascent entirely unsupported and without the proper equipment, in which case he certainly shouldn't have relied on being bailed out by other climbers, at risk to their own lives. It's like living your life without home contents insurance on the assumption that your neighbours will give you furniture when your house burns down*. So I think that if the dying man was already and obviously doomed when he was found, the actions of the other climbers were justified (albeit somewhat callous, but the higher order brain functions pack up somewhere around 7,000m, and even the politest mountaineers stop raising their helmets to passing ladies). If his life could have been saved, there's criticism enough for all parties concerned, himself included.

The suggestion I've read in the press that someone could have sat around and held his hand while he died sounds very romantic and Florence Nightingale, but doesn't make sense in the extreme conditions near the summit of Everest. If you're not going up, you go down. Staying still just risks two (or more) corpses instead of one. If you want me to hold your hand as you die on a mountain, pick a safer mountain.

*note to self, get contents insurance...


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April 2009

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