The 2006 climbing season on Mount Everest, with 9 dead already, seems likely to overtake the previous 1996 record of 12 fatalities. This climbing season featured a new kind of record as well, however, with reports of 40 climbers proceeding past a dying British climber on their way up.
Mark Inglis, an amputee who conquered Mount Everest on artificial legs last week, yesterday defended his party’s decision to carry on to the summit despite coming across a dying climber.
As his team climbed through the “death zone,” the area above 26,000 feet where the body begins to shut down, they passed David Sharp, 34, a stricken British climber who later died. His body remained on the mountain.
Mr. Inglis, 47, a New Zealander, said: “At 28,000 feet it’s hard to stay alive yourself. He was in a very poor condition, near death. We talked about [what to do for him] for quite a lot at the time and it was a very hard decision.
“About 40 people passed him that day, and no one else helped him apart from our expedition. Our Sherpas (guides) gave him oxygen. He wasn’t a member of our expedition, he was a member of another, far less professional one.”..
About 200 people have died on Everest since the first expeditions in the 1920s. The corpses are stepped over by climbers traveling the most popular routes.
Sir Edmund Hillary, the first climber to summit Everest and a representative of a different era, condemned their action.
The New Zealand Press Association reports that Edmund Hillary has questioned the actions of Mark Inglis and others on the night British David Sharp, 34, died. “In our expedition there was never any likelihood whatsoever if one member of the party was incapacitated that we would just leave him to die,” Hillary, told the Otago Daily Times today.
Hillary said people have completely lost sight of what’s important and that the difficulties posed by operating at high altitude is no excuse. “I think the whole attitude towards climbing Mt Everest has become rather horrifying…people just want to get to the top, they don’t give a damn for anybody else who may be in distress and it doesn’t impress me at all that they leave someone lying under a rock to die.”