Was I ready to
forget the purity of purpose that had led me to try Everest in such a manner?
My selfish side yearned both to be in the limelight and not to be faced with
giving lectures about a failure in order to reduce my team's $100,000 debt. My
expansive side wanted to keep mountaineering the amateur endeavor, founded on
mutual trust, that I took up almost three decades ago. Televised Everest climbs
have the potential to bring the sport down to the level of Monday Night
Football. As of now I'm resigned to not going back to mountains so high that
the funding and the hassles of the enterprise surpass the pleasure.
If there is a
lasting value to this detailed exposition of simultaneous expeditions, it may
be the realization, once and for all, that there is no universal reason why
people climb Everest. The most famous answer, "Because it's there," has
been quoted as inspiration by presidents, philosophers, men of the cloth and
supporters of the space effort. In reality, George Leigh Mallory was a tired,
impatient man when he uttered those words in Philadelphia 60 years ago. The
British mountaineer was on a lecture tour to raise funds for a third attempt on
Mount Everest, one from which he never returned He wrote home about this
nation's unresponsive crowds and pushy reporters and his closest friends claim
that his immortal phrase was a sarcastic answer to a journalist who asked the
inevitable question once too often.