Monday, February 17, 2014

Commercial Mountaineering from the Purist Point of View

On page 36, Sir Edmund Hillary criticizes Hall’s Adventure Consultants company and its work in ferrying people up Everest, stating that this “[was] engendering disrespect for the mountain.” This conflict between mountaineering pioneers and purists such as Sir Hillary and the commercial mountaineers is an interesting one because it brings into question much of what mountaineering was founded on; adventure, thrill, firsts, biggests, and danger. Real mountaineers, i.e. the people who are fully prepared themselves to summit a mountain without the help of a commercial service, are able to experience the thrills, danger, and adventure that mountaineering is based on, which makes mountaineering worthwhile for them. Commercial mountaineering, however, literally bastardizes the activity because, as can be seen on Everest today, people are waited on hand and foot from basecamp to the summit and are practically carried up and down the mountain by their guides and sherpas. Consequently, through commercial mountaineering, most of the qualities that mountaineering was founded on are lost because there is no thrill, little danger and the summiting of a mountain such as Everest is rendered a mere tick off of a bucket list rather than a hard fought achievement concluding an epic adventure.
This attitude towards commercial mountaineering by the mountaineering purists, and evidently by yours truly, seems to be particularly pertinent to this course and our question, “what do mountains do?” For the purists, that question has a solid although possibly ethereal and hard to explain answer, but for the clients on commercial mountaineering expeditions, the danger, thrill and even sense of adventure cannot be part of it because the commercial part of commercial mountaineering has eliminated them from the equation. In the commercial world, the priorities of mountaineering have changed from the defining qualities of mountaineering to ones involving safely babying clients up mountains. Consequently, considering commercial mountaineering from the purist view, does commercial mountaineering really allow mountains to do anything?

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