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Multiple Identities

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In the spring of 1996, incredible achievement and great tragedy occurred on the dangerous slopes of Mount Everest. A total of 98 men and women successfully climbed to the summit that spring, but 15 people lost their lives. 23 people reached the summit on May 10th. Rob Hall and Scott Fischer, two of the world’s most experienced high- altitude climbers reached the summit on this day. Sadly, as a storm enveloped the mountain on their descent, Hall and Fischer died along with three other climbers. The rest of the party escaped the mountain alive, after wandering in the dark and sub- zero temperatures for many hours. Since then, many have sought to understand what went wrong that day and how it can be prevented in the future. Mount Everest stands 8,850 meters above sea level. This peak in the Himalayan mountain range stands taller than any other mountain in the world. The first expedition to climb Everest was set out in 1922, but they did not reach the summit. Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay were the first climbers to reach the summit, on May 29, 1953. 15 total expeditions were attempted to reach the summit and 24 men died before the first team successfully reached the summit. Over time more successful trips to the summit occurred, while many others perished on the expeditions. 30 expeditions set out to climb Everest in 1996. Hall and Fischer led two of the largest commercial expeditions. Hall thought that it was unlikely to get through this season without something bad happening, due to the incompetent climbers. Hall turned his team around one time before reaching the summit in order to keep them safe from the conditions. Hall’s expedition included 8 clients. Three doctors, Beck Weathers, Stuart Hutchison and John Taske. Frank Fischbeck and Doug Hansen were returning to Everest after an unsuccessful attempt. Jon Krakauer, Lou Kasischke and Yasuko Namba rounded out the team. Fischer reached the summit on his 4th attempt. He did not use any supplemental oxygen. Fischer had full confidence in coming back and said that he thinks when accidents happen it is human error, he wants to eliminate that. Fischer’s clients included Sandy Pittman, Pete Schoening, and Dale Kruse. Fischer was not concerned about his team not having experience. The climbers developed coughs and respiratory ailments from the poor conditions and amount of walking. The logistical problems affected Fischer’s ability to come up with a successful plan. The clients had doubts about the trip and the staff’s ability to assist them. The acclimatization process was difficult for some of the climbers which made them have doubts, while others performed well. Hall stated that the clients must follow his instruction at all times. They each only brought a few radios, but they spoke about having a predetermined turn- around time in case of a dangerous situation. At each camp the climbers became more sick and tired. They continued to grow fear for the rest of the trip. Hall contemplated two turn- around times at Camp IV due to the dangerous weather. The IMAX movie crew and a number of clients decided to turn around and not continue with the climb. It was too dangerous, sometimes it is braver to be smart. Fischer could not fulfill his duties due to a lack of preparation and physical illness. There was poor communication between the climbers about the oxygen cannisters that remained for the descent. Fischer did not allow people to put themselves in danger to help and and Hall put himself in danger to help one of his clients. Hall, Fischer, Hansen, Namba and Harris died on Mount Everest.

1) This tragedy was caused by human error, weather, and all of the dangers that are inherent to humans while climbing Mount Everest. Analyzing what went wrong on Everest might prevent future deaths. Hall and Fischer may have made some mistakes and there was human error involved, but climbing Everest is an extraordinarily dangerous task and it always will be. There is no easy way to go about climbing this mountain, it is inherently dangerous. The strongest and most experienced climbers in the world are powerless on Everest. Sometimes they cannot even save their own lives, let alone save the lives of their clients. No matter how perfect the plan or program was, Everest is able to break it. There is no fool proof way to climb Everest. It can break the most skilled climbers and demolish all of their plans and strategies. Hall and Fischer’s systems were not faulty, they were the best plans out there. It is just the nature of Everest to break things and make people suffer. However, human error comes into place with the decision to push forward or turn back. Experienced climbers should know when it is time to call it quits and protect their own lives, as well as the lives of their clients. The decision to keep pushing forward and not turn back contributed to the tragedy. The deaths could have been prevented if a more logical, safer decision was made. Hall and Fischer were too proud of their



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