Monday, 2 January 2012

Into Thin Judgement

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Into Thin Judgment

Jean Cocteau once stated, Tact in audacity is knowing how far one can go without going too far. One who recklessly neglects their limitations may be succumbed by the most disastrous of consequences. In the early hours of May 10, 16, several courageous expeditions set out determined to attain the roof of the world. Tragically, the almighty, incorrigible forces of nature preyed upon Mount Everest that day, and consumed the lives of twelve impotent people. However, was physical nature alone the antecedent of such a catastrophe? Was another evasive force responsible for escalating the calamity? Into Thin Air portrays Jon Krakauer’s experience of that fateful March 10, 16. Krakauer concluded no definite explanation which procured the disaster, but that a conglomeration of circumstances and motives contributed to the death of many climbers. However, I regard the desolation upon Mount Everest that deplorable day as provoked by the arrogance and adverse ambitions of human nature.

Although the expeditions were a team theoretically, in essence they were contrived as individuals. We were a team in name only Jon Krakauer, client of the Adventure Consultants Guided Expedition, sadly came to recognize. Each client was in it for himself or herself (Krakauer 1). Despite proceeding as a group, they climbed as individuals, each fueled by self-centered motives and egotistic glory.

As a result, arrogance, to the point of carelessness, transpired into the tragedy upon Everest. The commercial guiding business is fabricated upon the notion that the average, ordinary individual can summit the superlative mountain on earth. Scott Fischer, lead guide of the Mountain Madness Expedition, even declared to have ...built a yellow brick road to the summit (Krakauer 86). In addition, Rob Hall, lead guide of the Adventure Consultants Guided Expedition, ...bragged on more than one occasion that he could get almost any reasonably fit person to the summit (Krakauer 54). One cannot assume that they can direct all conditions of summating Everest. Furthermore, arrogance throughout the procedure and progress of the expedition would eventually come at fatal prices. Anatoli Boukreev, a Russian guide for Mountain Madness, descended far ahead of the clients he was responsible for. Krakauer, being indoctrinated not to question their guides’ judgment, failed to suspect that Andy Harris or Scott Fischer might have urgently needed help. Arrogance of such proportions influenced their clients to lessen their safeguard, which therefore blinded them to recognize the full dangers of the expedition.

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Due to this superficial arrogance, the climbers’ drive for success was consumed by vanity. Drive and determination are imperative to succeed over the strenuous and doleful predicaments of mountaineering. Yet, that same drive is perfectly capable of exposing climbers to needless risk and menacing judgment. The climbers, having programmed themselves to reach the summit, neglected signs of grave and imminent danger. In order to succeed you must be exceedingly driven, but if you’re too driven you’re likely to die. Above 6,000 feet, moreover, the line between appropriate zeal and reckless summit fever becomes grievously thin. Thus the slopes of Everest are littered with corpses (Krakauer ). On May 10, several climbers decided to turn around and descend, even within a few hundred feet of the summit. Despite enduring the mountain’s afflictions for weeks, Rob Hall asserted that such a sound decision was even more admirable than attaining the summit would have been. However, Hall and many others continued for the summit, in spite of the expeditions’ severely slow progress and transforming weather. So many climbers, including Hall himself, were absorbed by summit fever that relinquishing their purpose was simply not an option.

Why then were such cases of summit fever present in the Everest expeditions? ...some of the Everesters myriad other, less virtuous, motives came into play, as well minor celebrity, career advancement, ego massage, ordinary bragging rights, filthy lucre (Krakauer 174). In which case a primary cause of the ambitious behavior of most climbers was due to the present state of commercialism upon Everest; egotistic glory disguised as commercialism. For example, both Adventure Consultants and Mountain Madness desired Jon Krakauer’s, a journalist, participation in their expedition in hopes of utilizing his profession to publicize their agencies, and thus boast their mountaineering accomplishments. Moreover, commercialism was most likely the motive behind Rob Hall not enforcing the two o’clock turn around time. With both Krakauer and Sandy Pittman, an NBC dispatcher, present, Hall would not dare let his agency be publicized and acknowledged as a failure in getting all clients to the summit.

In conclusion, the human nature of the expedition, a number of individualistic clients who invested large sums of money to get to the summit, produced the arrogance and adverse ambition which escalated the expedition to a tragic calamity. The climbers were arrogant to their forged confidence and Everest’s might. They disregarded the repercussions of their contemptuous actions. They were overdriven by summit fever, prioritizing to the ambitions of their image and ego.

We see human nature tested in various ways, and question within ourselves our own response. After all, adversity does not build character... it reveals it.

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