5,251 forum posts
I just got back to some semblance of civilization after spending much of the last months "stranded" in a very remote part of the globe. At least, that is the way at least one on-line news service reported our situation. The group I was with was a mix of old geezers who have been climbing for more than 5 decades (including me), some children of the olde geezers (in their 40s), a "young" documentary photographer (along to document the 40th anniversary of the first ascent of a "7 summit" peak), and assorted others. The region in question remains very remote by even today´s standards. Unfortunately, commercialization has set in. We had some long discussions while¨"stranded" on the topic of modern "adventure travel" (the aircraft that was to return us got damaged in a storm, plus weather prevented retrieval for a couple weeks). One of the principals of the company providign logistics spent some time with us (he flew in with a Russian military flight that was "showing the flag", so to speak). His comments were particularly interesting, and very contradictory to some of the comments made by nicatrails, anniek, and others supporting them in the recent Everest TV show (he happens to be an Aussie and knows Brice personally). One of his big worries is the increasing number of untrained, inexperienced, and underqualified people heading for remote locations (7 summiters, Last Degree skiers, solo fliers - we had a Pole to Pole helicopter record attempt pass through). There was indeed an accident as we were arriving at the start of the trek in which an inexperienced client of a major 7-summit company followed the rope instead of the footprints and fell into a crevasse, ultimately necessitating a rescue by other parties and serious cold injuries. And there was a climb by a heart transplant recipient on which the two physicians in support suffered serious altitude illness (HAPE in both cases) and had to be evacuated (this was before the storms moved in).
The logistics person and his company try to screen people coming in, but a lot of the responsibility falls on the guide services. By his comments, the guide services are lowering their screening standards year by year. He had some harsh words for Brice as one of those taking less and less qualified people and providing less and less support themselves, relying on there being lots of other groups there (themselves having less and less qualified clients) to provide the bailout.
Oh, yeah, about our suffering in being stranded - the plane finally got repaired and storm let it in 2 weeks behind schedule. We ran out of fresh vegetables and fruit (the wonders of modern logistical support) and beer after the first week delay and had to subsist on sushi (freshly made by one of our group), smoked salmon, chicken and fish curries (and beef and lamb for the red meat carnivores), wine (ran out of hot chocolate mix, too), varius wines (the port supply held out). While waiting, we took day hikes and climbs up a number of nearby minor peaks. The tents held up well to the 70 knot wind gusts, and the sleeping bags were adequate for the -40 temps. I do have to complain about my new garmin GPSr, though - it failed utterly about a week into the expedition. But I found the crashed DC6 without it anyway.
Main point here is that technology has brought a lot of comforts to remote places. But technology does not substitute for years of experience. Remote cold, windy, stormy places, whether Everest or the polar regions, can not be made perfectly safe for wannabe adventurers. Nature will extract the price one way or another. Wnd when she does, everyone venturing into that situation has to work together. You don´t just walk by someone in trouble, even if they got there by their own dumbness.