A test of character

Daniel Mazur is a man who has his priorities straight.

According to this article, he sacrificed his attempt to scale Everest in order to rescue a man left for dead by a previous team of climbers. Daniel, who was a hired guide, said “It was very disappointing for me to miss my chance at the summit, but even more that I could not get my job done.”

Consider that for a moment. Regret #1 — he failed his paying clients (who apparently agreed with him that the life of the man they found was more important than their own ascents). Regret #2 — he failed to make it to the summit himself. Of course the word “regret” is my own. Again, in Mazur’s own words: “Oh yeah, it was worth it. You can always go back to the summit but you only have one life to live. If we had left the man to die, that would have always been on my mind. … How could you live with yourself?”

Now… before you take this as a reaffirmation of your faith in humanity, read the whole article. Apparently on the way down Mazur and his clients passed a pair of Italian climbers making the ascent. When asked for help, they claimed to speak no English. The Italians proceeded with their ascent, and later Mazur learned that they DID speak English. In this group we find the wonderful example of people for whom another human life was just one more thing they didn’t want to be troubled with. Not only that, in order to dodge responsibility they were willing to perjure themselves atop the highest court in the world.

It’s extremely unlikely that you or I will ever be faced with these exact circumstances, or even something approaching this extreme. That’s fine. Throughout our lives we will be presented with opportunities to choose between serving ourselves in something trivial, or serving someone else in something that really matters. We can look to Daniel Mazur, and commit to making our own little decisions a little better.

6 thoughts on “A test of character”

  1. While this is an inspiring story, I can’t imagine making the decision implied in “left for dead by a previous team of climbers”. Decisions like “pursuing a personal hobby goal” vs. “saving someone’s life”? Maybe I’m strange here, but that’s a no brainer.

    The Italians are perhaps a little different. That was “pursuing a personal hobby goal” vs. “lending a hand”. Still a no brainer for me, but I suppose I can understand why they might have thought it wasn’t worth their own sacrifice.

    But still. It saddens me that people like that exist. Daniel Mazur wasn’t being a hero, he was being human. That that decision stands out is a sad commentary on every one else.

    1. The fixation on the ascent is strong. For most, there is one chance in a lifetime to attempt it. Famlies, friends have all been cast aside to achieve it. In addition, the attitude of “It’s not my problem” is not limited to the US.

  2. I’ve seen a lot of that sort of thing on the news. A climber, Mark Inglis, was interviewed following the recent death of a climber on Everest. He passed the man, as did many, and didn’t help him. His explanation was that the climb was very important, and that things were different when you climb Everest. He actually said that he didn’t regret what he did, and that he probably wouldn’t have done things differently.

    It may be because I’m not a mountain climber (and he did say that it’s hard to understand unless you climb Everest) but I cannot comprehend how, when given an opportunity to save a life, right there in front of you, you could choose to keep going.

    It just sickens me… and kinda makes me want to run a cable car up the mountain, just to spite them. According the thje articles I read, this is not an uncommon thing. The passing-a-human-in-need, not the cable car.

  3. I can’t believe that in one of the most dangerous places in the world that people would ever consider not helping those in distress. It’s incomprehensible to me.

  4. Sir Edmund Hillary said that it was incomprehensible for anyone not to help another climber.
    I’ve climbed, so I understand the “get to the top” mindset, it is over-riding need – almost a narcotic. That being said, when I climbed the number one rule was safety. It’s sad to see climbing and people get so wrapped up in personal achievement instead of personal growth.

  5. I’d like to point out that attempting Everest is very expensive. Those who fixate on it have been known to jettison their family and friends just to gain the means to make the attempt. Not to mention resorting to larceny…

    The kind of personality it takes to make the attempt, humongous ego-wise, pretty much means that the base camps are full of people who you wouldn’t want to invite for dinner.

    The fact that Mazur’s group actually did agree to halt their attempt for the sake of the stranded climber speaks far better to the nature of man than that of the Italians.

    One only need consider the company they kept on that mountain…

    Cheers to them.

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