Inglis faces mental stress after harsh criticism

By Angela Gregory

An experienced Himalayan guide says Sir Edmund Hillary's "harsh criticism" of Mark Inglis and other climbers for leaving a British man to die on Mt Everest could be psychologically harmful to Inglis and his team.

Australian mountaineer Adam Darragh, who teaches at the Australian School of Mountaineering and instructs guides, said Inglis would inevitably feel remorse for not doing more for 34-year-old David Sharp but that did not mean he had failed in his duty.

"The fact that someone died that day and they had walked past him does not mean they were negligent in their care," Mr Darragh said.

"You don't know people on the mountain and climbers are responsible for their own decisions."

Mr Darragh said with so many parties and climbers attempting to scale Mt Everest, people had become much more focused on their own goals and would not easily be able to critically assess the situation of strangers.

"It's worth listening to Ed, but Ed comes from an era when there weren't 300 people on the hill."

Mr Darragh said criticising the climbers for not going to assist and support could harm their ability to get over their remorse.

"No one likes to see people dying up there."

Well-known mountaineer Graham Dingle said, while he did not want to discredit Inglis for his huge achievement, he hoped in a similar situation he would have acted differently.

"If I had oxygen I would not pass a dying person."

Mr Dingle said other members of the party who had come across Sharp at 300m below the summit needed to take a "good hard look at themselves".

"Their guides were strong and there would have been plenty of oxygen ... there is a chance he could have survived."

He suspected the high costs of expeditions, about $60,000 to $80,000, preyed on climbers' minds and said the "circus" Mr Everest had become was ultimately to blame for the tragedy.

Wanaka guide Geoff Wayatt said addressing the culture that had become attached to mountaineering on Everest would not be easy.

A set of rules had developed there that stood in contrast to mountaineering practice elsewhere and it was probably timely to debate whether that was a good thing.

"I think probably it is a bit easy to lose touch with the big game and I think that would be Sir Edmund Hillary's caution about the commercialisation of it."

It might be time to look at some guidelines or ethics, but it was difficult, he said.

Guiding on Mt Everest was different to elsewhere as guides often did not accompany their charges - sometimes relative novices - up the mountain, but rather monitored their progress by radio.

Climbers were also not roped together, but hooked on to permanent lines up the mountain.

"It is just a totally different approach," Mr Wayatt said.

"There will be some cultures and some people who may have been callous and uncaring and so forth about others but I think the majority would not do that."

- additional reporting: OTAGO DAILY TIMES

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