Thursday, 25 May 2006

Mark Inglis. Hero.

A brief word on the issue of Mark Inglis, his heroic climb and the tragic death of David Sharp. Many people including Sir Ed have questioned the morality of Mark Inglis walking past the dying David Sharp. Many details have emerged of what happened up 8000m up in the death zone -- a place so inhospitable to human life that at times just surviving is all you can do -- including the news that Inglis's own sherpas did investigate David Sharp and concluded no help was possible to him.

Morality pertains to actions over which you have a choice, over which it is possible to do something. David Sharp chose to ascend the mountain unaccompanied, and it seems insufficently prepared. That seems to have been a bad choice. As for Mark Inglis, given the challenges he faced in just getting back from the summit himself, I'm not sure what he could possibly have done anyway. Inglis's heroism consisted in fully preparing himself; in doing what was necessary to get up the mountain and get back down again - a return journey without which no mission can have any success -- and his efforts and were fully and necessarily focussed on that goal. That goal took all his work. He physically had no capacity for anything more. And he knew that.

And given the dozens of other fully able-bodied people in Inglis's party and on the mountain that day, I'm not sure why Inglis is the focus for the fury in any case, even if it were deserved. Which it isn't. Mark Inglis, you are a hero. Robert Falcon Scott could have learned a lot from you.

UPDATE: A new development promises to throw more light on what happened on Everest that day, and just how close to his limits Inglis really was ...

From Stuff today: TV shows Inglis' bloody trail in Everest's snows
New Zealand mountaineer Mark Inglis is the focus of a Discovery Channel documentary set to start screening in the United States.
The documentary, by filmmaker Dick Colthurst, tells the story of Inglis' becoming the first double amputee to summit Everest, on carbon-fibre legs with spiked feet. The TV series, Everest: Beyond the Limit, shows Inglis inching upward on his spindly black prosthetics, blood from his raw-rubbed stumps staining the snow. "It's hard to know whether to feel inspired by his guts or infuriated at his foolhardiness," said a report on the documentary in the Chicago Tribune.
TAGS: Heroes, New_Zealand


  1. Robert Winefield25 May 2006, 15:22:00

    Agreed on every point.

    What a bloke with no legs was supposed to do with a stretcher case 5,000 m up the world's highest peak is beyond me.

    True, the other able-bodied men that past him by could have leant a hand... Or could they? You can't just put a prostrate, fully clothed 80-90 kg man over your shoulders and descend the world's highest peak like you're walking down a garden path!

    In the end, David Sharp is dead because he liked to pursue one of the world's most dangerous hobbies. That was his choice and his alone.

    I'm sorry he's dead, but he's the one who went up Everest without enough oxygen. Nobody forced him to - certainly not Mark Inglis.

  2. Sure Mark Inglis is ones of lifes heroes.

    The other twist is that the media latching on to the commercialisation of Everest (whats wrong with that?), seeking support from Hillary are using Hillary's name for their own commercial gain, whats wrong with that? Nothing except the media do not see the contradiction within their reporting.

    Hillary's comments suggest he is past his use by date.

    See my own post here.


  3. I predict that “being in the death zone” will become a term for excusing questionable behaviour of all sorts.

    Anyway who would you rather go climbing Everest with, a younger Hillary or Mark? Values that are past their use by date may start looking a little more valuable then eh? At least with Hillary you’d stand a better chance of keeping all your bits.

  4. Robert Winefield26 May 2006, 02:45:00

    You'd stand a better chance with Hillary, because Hillary and his contemporaries would have gone properly prepared to help a member of his ~own~ team who was in trouble. That's the difference.

    But I doubt that even Hillary would have been carrying sufficient oxygen or equipment to carry a dying man - without any useful equipment of his own - off the mountain.

    David Sharp went up Everest on his own! Think about that. And remember that the SAR people in NZ recommend against climbing NZ mountains alone! It's a dangerous pursuit and the foolish die first.

  5. I am surprised that anyone would consider climbing Everest alone and Mark was certainly the least equipped person to assist the stricken climber. Yet most laymen would think it odd that 39 well equipped, fit and healthy climbers would have the resources to ascend another 300 metres but not be able to at least try and save a life.

    I question the status of hero when it comes to Mark however. Climbing Everest for anyone is like playing Russian Roulette (1 in 6 die). The odds are worse if you are missing both feet so Mark climbing would be like putting two rounds in the revolver instead of one. David probably put three rounds in! Macabre is the more accurate word to use rather than heroic. Especially when you keep losing precious appendages. If Mark loses any more bits are the public going to continue thinking him a hero or will they think something else?

  6. AA, the public may think what it likes about Mark. As for me, I'll continue to respect him for his achievements, for the way he's handled himself in the past week, and for replying to criticisms of the commercialisation of Everest that the biggest problem is that it's not commercial enough.

    Good for him.

    The closest I'm going to get to climbing Everest is reading books about it, and any of those books make clear just how bloody difficult it is even to survive up there, let alone climb it and come back.

    I confess that when I first heard he would likely lose some fingers I felt rather as you did, thinking perhaps that he had given little thought or care to to the dangers to him and to others. But in the first interview I heard he made clear that he not only knew the dangers and his own poor odds, but he realised that he couldn't achieve his goal of getting there and back unless he had the very best team and the very best preparation -- and even then he knew the odds suggested he would be at the very edge of his abilities just getting himself up there and back, and that he might perhaps suffer some loss.

    But it was all worth it, to him. And he knew that, he prepared for it, and worked for it and did everything humanly possible to make his goal achievable and his losses minimal, and therein lies his heroism. It's clear that for him this wasn't blind self-sacrifice in disregard of the costs and unaware of the odds against him; this was clearly a conscious, planned organised project that was fully aware of the attendant risks and odds against a double amputee successfullly attacking the mountain, and that had done all it could to minimise those risks.

    The value of preparation can't be overstated in such a project, and if there's one book that highlights that virtue, and at the same time exposes the vice of needless self-sacrifice (ie., that of Robert Falcon Scott), it's Roland Huntford's brilliant 'The Last Place on Earth.' Every home should have a copy simply as a practical manual of ethics, let alone as a great adventure story.

  7. A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.

    And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.

    And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.

    But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had com- passion on him,

    And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.

    And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.

    Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?

  8. Nice try Berend but you are trying to comapare hor dry apples with frozen solid oranges...and if the Samaritan had found the man was too far gone and about to die what then...?


  10. We've all justify our actions somehow ... Mark Inglis achieved what he set out to do, good on him. In leaving a fellow human being to die alone, he did what he believed he had to do to reach his goal. As you say this 'was his choice and his alone'.

    This was the decisions he made - he now has to live with the consequences. Oneof the consequences is that by many, mountaineers and New Zealanders in particular, he will always be remembered as the one of us who left a dying man alone. For many of us he is someone who has shamed us by association.

    That is just the way it is.

    Life goes on ....


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