Monday, February 18, 2013

For the Team

One of more noticeable contrasts between Krakauer's expedition and Herzog's or Blum's was the team dynamic. Krakauer is entrusting his life in a team he really knows next to nothing about. Everyone has varying levels of skill and trust in each other. The fact that this is a client-guide expedition seems to build an ominous atmosphere; you know that something bad's going to happen. Even though hardship on Everest is inevitable, the lack of camaraderie that the other expeditions had made the book feel starkly different than the others we have read so far. Instead of feeling inspired by the climb, I felt a sense of impending dread. Krakauer seemed to exacerbate his solitude by not delving into much detail of the thoughts of his fellow climbers, at least not to the extent that Blum did.

Furthermore, Herzog and Blum's teams were climbing Annapurna for glory. The book largely emphasizes the commercialization of Everest; how guides charge exorbitant fees for clients to reach the top. Guides will defend their stance, saying how other climbers don't understand the difficulty of leading much less experienced climbers up Everest. "One afternoon in Base Camp I asked Hall why he'd been so eager to have me along. He candidly explained that it wasn't me he was actually interested in, or even the publicity he hoped my article would generate, particularly. What was so enticing was the bounty of valuable advertising he would reap from the deal he struck with Outside." (Krakauer 71) Hall doesn't care so much about summiting Everest as a personal goal, he's done it before. It's a much less noble goal than Blum wanting to be the first American and lead an all-women team to the summit of Annupurna. It's an interesting dialogue between the two sides that greatly diverges from the more personal goal-oriented, camaraderie-filled adventures of Herzog and Blum. I think the tragedy of the climb serves as a warning toward commercialization of climbing. The main reason why there are so many fatalities is because of the unusually high amount of climbers trying to summit the peak.

Above 8,000 meters, it's all about survival. F*ck morality, you make judgments off what will get your own hide down that mountain in one piece (or as close to one piece as possible). Also, physically the effort needed to make the conscious decision on whether or not to help someone wastes precious moments and brain cells. At 8,000 meters, it makes sense that people would revert to their basest survivalist instincts. If a climber decides to be moral, then they slice their chances of survival significantly. I think the Japanese climbers were also driven by competitive nature; if their rivals couldn't cut it on their own, well then too bad.

1 comment:

  1. As I stated in class on Tuesday, I think it's extremely difficult for us, the armchair adventurers, to judge morality on the mountain and the extreme situations explorers find themselves in. Krakauer definitely agrees that morality is a difficult thing to have above 8,000 feet. He attributes this, however, to oxygen deprivation making it nearly impossible for one to have deep thoughts beyond survival instincts. Nevertheless, the events he witnessed on May 10th show that people can possess morality above 8,000 feet. After all, Boukreev journeys into the storm multiple times to look for Fischer and to rescue the members of Hall's team. Andy Harris also goes into the storm in an effort to help Hall and Doug Densen descend safely. I think, therefore, that morality depends on the person and the situation. Hall and Harris may not have made the smartest decisions; however, they did the moral thing.