Postcard from the Peaks

Dear Editors

We never said (Socialist Standard, July) that using ropes or oxygen is like walking. Using ropes is part of climbing, it keeps us alive, and we use them all the time. I’m also not sure that I ever said that I despised any restrictions. There are no restrictions on the mountain so saying that I despise them is a bit over the top if they don’t even exist? Also the Nepalese Govt never intervened. No one was ever arrested, I never saw a single policeman. The ringleader sherpas were back working on the mountain almost straight away!

JON GRIFFITH (by email)


Reply: Accounts differ. Jon Griffith was one of three European mountaineers who in late April were at some 21,000 feet up Mount Everest, working to establish a new route to the summit unassisted by ropes or oxygen, when they were attacked by a group of Sherpas who were laying some fixed ropes nearby. The incident was reported by, among others, Oliver Thring in the Sunday Times of 5 May. In that report Griffith was quoted as saying ‘For people like us the normal route to climb Everest is just like walking.’ He was also reported as expressing negative feelings about those he called ‘commercial climbers’ – presumably referring to people who pay a lot of money to be luxuriously accommodated before being respectfully guided up the mountain. And then there were his thoughts on the restrictions which arise from such arrangements: ‘Being told not to climb on a certain day just because other people are there is against the freedom of the hills.’

Jon Griffith also questions the statement in the article that the Nepalese government had intervened. But a report by Ed Douglas in the Guardian on 1 May stated that the Nepalese authorities had intervened, by trying to involve all parties to concede that mistakes had been made and that there would be no more violence. But the Europeans rejected the offer and returned home with Griffith saying that he no longer felt safe above base camp on the mountain. In addition the Nepalese police arrested three Sherpas.

In its entirety the piece was intended to set out one of many examples of how Mount Everest, once regarded on one side as holy ground side and on the other as a supreme test of moral fortitude, has deteriorated into just another sideshow in capitalism’s commodity culture. – Editors

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