I Think I Can See My House From Here!
Where in the world can you just be walking along, minding your own business and get whacked on the head by an airliner, flying at its normal cruising altitude? Mount Everest, that's where. How do I know this? Because I watch a lot of TV. I have to. It's my duty, as the Fat Kid, to consume as much television as possible. Occasionally something interesting makes it to my brain, and sometimes I am even able to recall it later.
So, anyway, there I was, doing my duty when I happened upon a miniseries on the Discovery Channel entitled "Everest: Beyond the Limit." At first I was going to keep channel surfing in search of an infomercial which could help me lounge my way to a tighter waistline, when one of the climbers said "All I do is eat and sleep." Say what? Needless to say, I was hooked. The guy was Tim, a rather large man who was not a professional climber and not in particularly good shape but who was, nonetheless, scaling the world's tallest peak. Tim had been involved in a motorcycle accident a few years ago, and (as anybody would) decided that once he got out of the hospital, he needed to spend nearly three months four miles above sea level trying to conquer Everest. All he needed was $40,000 and a plane ticket to Nepal. His eating and sleeping comment was made when he was asked about camp life and getting acclimated to the higher altitude. Mental note to self: move from your current sea level location to a really high place where your eating and sleeping lifestyle is not considered lazy but high altitude training.
As I watched Tim and his fellow climbers struggle from Base Camp (17,000 feet) to Advanced Base Camp (21,000 feet) and so on up toward the summit of 29,035, I kept noticing the narrator repeating one particular phrase: "The Sherpas went on ahead to set up camp/lay down the rope/set up the ladders." The Sherpas would go on up ahead, climbing using only their hands, feet, and whatever tools they could attach to these appendages, and lay down ropes for the others to climb with, ladders to bridge chasms, and haul all the heavy gear such as food and oxygen tanks.
I started to wonder "Why are we spending all our time watching these fat Westerners hike, not climb, up this mountain when it would be far more interesting to see how the Sherpas do it?" Don't get me wrong. Mount Everest is a menacing place, whose extreme weather can kill a man in little time and with little warning. More than a hundred climbers' bodies lie on the mountain, left where they died. The air is so thin near the peak that one can asphyxiate while breathing and frost bite can claim any of the extremities even if you survive. But if all the heavy lifting (both literally and figuratively) is being done by others who have gone up ahead and made everything easier for you, doesn't that tarnish the accomplishment, even just a little? On the flip side, it also makes when Hillary and his crew did in 1963 all the more impressive, especially since they did not have the satellite weather forecasting that we enjoy today, and weather is the most dangerous thing about Everest.
At first, I thought of WIllie Wonka and the Oompa Loompas - they did all the work, he got all the credit. But at least Wonka sought out the Oompa Loompas and brought them to London to work. When Westerners got to Everest, the Sherpas were already there, and had been for centuries!
All this glory hogging got me thinking. What I really need to do to be rich and famous is to find some hard-working people, steal credit for their hard work, and then brag about my accomplishment (*cough* Al Gore inventing the Internet *cough*). I am going to start my search immediately...just as soon as I get done with my sea level version of high altitude training.