Altitude Sickness

Many’s the time I have read, or usually just glanced in passing, of some sporting achievement, or some team winning something, within the bounds of some game or event; and have just blinked and passed on to more important things. I just do not ‘get’ the appeal of admiring or supporting some team, or group, to the extent of blackguarding all other supporters, or the teams which those people support. The ‘grip’, the ‘call’, the very idea of rooting for one bunch against another bunch, has never had any hold over my mind, intellect or indeed purpose in life.


There are literally hundreds of sporting events where men and women strive to ‘be the best’, at whatever athletic or physical endeavour they have chosen. If thats what turns their engines: so be it. Most are single-minded to the point of obsession, but whatever their field, whatever their sport, there are very few who drive their bodies to the point of destruction; or even to a space where they literally place themselves so far apart that it is surely insane; in order to achieve that extra burst, that final aim, that spurt in achievement.


However, there is but one field of endeavour, which I definitely would remove totally from the encompassing title of ‘Sport’, or indeed any sane adjective whatsoever, and that is High Mountain Climbing, especially in the killer ranges of the Himalayas. I would place this particular area of physical effort into the place reserved for ‘Approaching Disabling Mental Illnesses’.


Fair enough, if you have trained, and found that you have certain abilities, such as endurance, mental awareness and you have learned your ’trade’ from the lowest crags to small mountain ranges; and have proved to both yourself and to your peers that you have ‘what it takes’, go for it.


But when you see the photos of the ‘Wannabees’, when you see the literal queues of foolhardy ‘climbers who wouldn’t be trusted at the bottom of a flight of stairs, straggling up the death-filled slopes below Everest’s summit; surely some kind of sense must surely kick in to the authorities. Those blind fools are not done any service by the officials who issue the permits, all of which cost thousands of dollars: and so let loose upon a deadly mountain, where they stumble over the dead bodies of their climbing compatriots as they head for the illusory ‘glory’ of announcing “I was There!”


The reply should surely be “So Bloody What?”