Mount Everest has always been surrounded by mysteries and tales of tragedies, despite the tremendous successes achieved by many climbers who managed to reach its peak. The events of spring 1996 are now remembered as one of the most unfortunate as fifteen individuals lost their lives during the summit to Everest (Krakauer 1). On May 10th, 1996, 23 people successfully reached the peak, with the group including two of the most experienced climbers, Rob Hall and Scott Fischer. Soon after the ascend, a deadly storm enveloped the mountain, leading to the death of both climbers as well as three others.
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The course of events
Some may point out that the start of the expedition in early April was not as smooth as expected, with Fisher’s team experiencing some logistical difficulties coupled with concerns regarding readiness and ability (Boukreev and DeWalt 90). As mentioned by an experienced climber Anatoli Boukreev, commercial expeditions involving less qualified individuals meant that he was hired to prepare the “mountain for the people instead of the other way around” (qt. in Roberto and Carioggia 5). This fueled the concerns regarding the ability of team members to rely on each other in complicated and dangerous situations. Here, the human factor played a significant role: no matter how prepared and experienced one can be to climb Everest, the overall attitude and the perception of the situation play immense roles in the shaping of a successful project.
As the group began its descent from the mountain, the weather took a turn for the worse, with clouds and intense winds moving into the area. Concerns were raised regarding the availability of oxygen to ensure a smooth descent, and with Hall remaining at the Hillary step to aid an ailing teammate who desperately needed oxygen, the success of the expedition was highly disputed. When the blizzard started, Fisher ordered Lopsang Jangbu Sherpa to descend without him and return for help later; however, when help returned, it was too late. The deaths of five climbers as a result of the severe blizzard have been widely analyzed and disputed. While some disagreement existed regarding the ineffective decisions of the Fisher and Hall as two leaders, emphasis should be placed on the fact that the expedition always implied a significant risk (Newlands). After all, the weather can change severely and affect every stage in a carefully developed plan.
Those who conclude that the deaths of climbers were attributed to a series of errors that could have been avoided fail to understand the complexity of ascending a mountain as well as the wide variety of factors that influence the success (Bashyal). Even the most reliable guides could sometimes be powerless against the force of nature and thus cannot save their lives. Therefore, the deaths of four teammates should be attributed not to the erroneous decisions of Rob Hall or the strategy that he had developed for ascending and descending. Rather, it is Everest with its nature and a unique system of forces that happened to ‘rebel’ against humans. Even though some of the decisions could have been prevented, with even Boukreev acknowledging the mistakes that had been made, there is no predominant root of the tragedy that must have been eliminated.
Therefore, the tragedy of Everest is a series of events that interacted with each other, creating a storm of circumstances that should not be blamed on separate people but rather be learned from and remembered.
Bashyal, Pradeep. “Everest Through the Eyes of a Sherpa: ‘Climbers Need to Wake Up’.” BBC News. 2019. Web.
Boukreev, Anatoli, and Weston DeWalt. The Climb: Ambitions on Everest. St. Martin’s Griffin, 2015.
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Krakauer, Jon. “True Everest. Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer.” Outside Magazine, Web.
Newlands, Murray. “What the 1996 Everest Disaster Teaches About Leadership.” Entrepreneur. 2017, Web.
Roberto, Michael, and Gina Carioggia. “Mount Everest – 1996.” Canvas Instructure, 2003, Web.