To hear some tell it, his death was due to a lack of preparation for what the mountain had in store. Others say it was the result of a relentless pursuit that not only brought him to his knees but forced his friends to the depths of depravity. Others may simply tell you he was too far gone to save without simultaneously bringing down others.
As news spread, Sir Edmund Hillary was quoted, "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. I think you have to have your priorities. If the priority is just to get to the summit and let another man die, okay, you do it. But if you have someone who is in great need and you are still strong and energetic, then you have a duty, really, to give all you can to get the man down and getting to the summit becomes very secondary. I think the whole attitude towards climbing Mt Everest has become rather horrifying. The 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."
Soon after reaching the summit of Everest, as David Sharp's oxygen reserves depleted and he lay motionless in the snow, forty other hikers walked past him on their way to the peak. Forty other hikers allowed their own ambition to cloud their vision. Forty other hikers lost sight of their purpose.
The conundrum is inherent. We all face an Everest. Some of us seek the thrill, the pursuit, and the recognition, while others are simply battling a diagnosis. Some pay $75,000 for a snapshot at the summit while others receive the tragic news on the receiving end of a toll-free call. Naturally, our valleys and peaks rarely coincide with those around us which is, of course, the rub. How will our values be compromised or can we find an alignment that satisfies both the soul and our ambition?
So, we ask ourselves:
Yes, In May of 2006, we learned of a man who both reached his zenith and met his demise on the same day while surrounded by others he considered friends, cohorts, and men of stature. While extending to reach new heights, he succumbed to the hubris mirrored by those disinterested others who wore similar blinders created by the relentless pursuit and singleness of purpose driving them beyond the realm of empathy for their fellow man.
Left to die? Or, die to self to live for others? Your thoughts?