Climbing over the back of humanity

Mountain climbing Nepal - Mandala TravelThere is a perception, rather widespread, that people who climb mountains – serious mountains – are special people who have more guts and determination than most of us. We tend to respect such people because we see them as somewhat exotic and very talented.

But we may have been judging them wrongly. In fact, it seems that many mountaineers are not very nice people at all. Indeed, many are callous and inhumane, unwilling to let the death or serious illness of another climber budge them from their dream of conquering a specific peak.

Yes, it’s an interesting insight but it has come to the fore as the result of a unique university study conducted by David Savage and Benno Torgler of Queensland University of Technology. They have an interesting niche: behavioural economics.

They have unearthed evidence that today’s breed of bucket list mountaineers are so focused on attaining their dream that they will blithely ignore the suffering or even potential loss of life of another climber to achieve their own goal.

It puts to the sword any romantic notion that climbers share some kind of bond that someone in distress will receive any and all help that can be given. No, it seems many of these latter-day adrenalin junkies have no consideration for anyone else at all.

The issue was highlighted by the first person to conquer Mt Everest, Sir Edmund Hilary who commented recently on an incident in which no fewer than forty climbers passed and failed to help a British climber who lay dying of altitude sickness. Hilary commented that in his day there was no way one could leave a man under a rock to die.

Today, it seems, it is quite common. And money, as is so often the case, is at the root of this evil.

Getting to the top of Everest these days can set an adventurous climber back some $60-$70K. So, when they are halfway up their challenge, they refuse to forego their major outlay to help someone in distress. It has become routine for them to force commercial operators to press on with the climb and leave behind ‘dead weight’ as it were. Charming.

It appears the cult of selfishness today permeates all of society in a way not seen since so-called uncivilised times. How very sad. You just have to wonder how someone could sleep at night after bragging that they had climbed Mt Everest but not mentioning they had left someone freeze to death on the slopes because it might have inconvenienced their own plans.

We should find such a lack of compassion very distressing. And the only way we can hope to turn back the tide is to individually demonstrate our care for others in ways that are genuine and sincere without being obnoxious.

Who’s for some decency?