Two Polish climbers are missing presumed dead after making the first ever winter ascent of the 12th highest mountain in the Himalayas called Broad Peak, the expedition leader says. Tomasz Kowalski, 27, and Maciej Berbeka, 51, were among four Poles who summited the 8,051 metre peak. Climbers dying above 8,000 metres, in what is often referred to as the death zone is a common occurrence. Whilst Kowalski and Berbeka went missing without a trace, it is often the case that climbers will collapse in plain sight of others who continue on without attempting to help them. In this post I will investigate to what extent, if any, does the death zone change what one person is entitled to expect from another?
On the 15th of May 2006 a 34 year old Englishman named David Sharp sat dying, during the last few hours of his life as many as forty people walked past him without helping him to safety or making any great attempt to save his life. Controversy followed his death as people who heard the story of Sharp’s demise found it difficult to fathom how people could be so cold towards another human, perhaps imagining that they would have done differently in the same situation. However, Sharp didn’t merely lie dying on the corner of a quiet suburban street, he was over 8000m above sea level, a few hundred meters from the summit of the tallest mountain in the world, Mt. Everest. When you’re above 8000m you are in what climbers refer to as the death zone as at this altitude the oxygen in the atmosphere isn’t plentiful enough to sustain life. In this essay I will investigate whether or not being in the death zone changes what one person is entitled to expect from another person. I will start by looking into the case of David Sharp and whether the inaction of his fellow climbers was morally permissible, I will then assess what we can expect from another person in a normal situation; specifically from the point of view of Kantianism and will then apply the situation David Sharp was in to the Kantian view of morality. I will end by concluding that a person cannot be expected to risk their own life in pursuit of saving another. Continue reading