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On Top of the World

On Top of the World

Everest...a life or death decision (2 min.)


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Some people are funny. Some are insightful. Some are cynical. Some find a humorous touch in everything. Others find irony. Some write beautifully. Few people do them all as well as Rabbi Yaakov Salomon does. Entertaining, inspiring, astute, he has the uncommon ability to look something to give us pause and make us think. His new book, Something to Think About , gives us just that -- with a healthy dose of wit and charm. Click here to order.

June 17, 2006

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Visitor Comments: 4

(4) Scott Granowski, August 4, 2006 12:00 AM

Hits home

Many times I have been focused on my task, holding it to be more important than a problem I see. While not as large, I have passed roadside people with problems only to think "I wish I had more time." Now it's clear that time wasn't my ego was!

(3) judith, June 23, 2006 12:00 AM

awake pleople's sensibility

Dear Rabbi Salomon,
Every week I'm looking forward to hear you, your reflections are excellent!
This week's Video Blog is really a scary topic, how humans can be so insensible & I have always asked myself if there is a way to awaken people’s sensibility...?

(2) yonah, June 19, 2006 12:00 AM

well intended blog but ...

Dear Rabbi Salomon:
Your weekly video blog is one I look forward to and really enjoy. Yasher koach!

99% of the time I agree with your perspective. This time however I must take exception to it.

Within one thousand feet of the summit of Everest one is in what is called "The Death Zone" because every minute one is at that altitude one is dying, even when "adequately" acclimatized and even when using supplemental oxygen. Brain cells are dying by the thousands, capilaries are spontaneously rupturing etc. One is literally racing against the clock, and time is not on your side.

Mental functioning and physical functioning is greatly impared even in Climbing's elite athletes, who are physiologically more capable of enduring the climb at that altitude. Mental and physical functioning is impared to an even greater extent in the paying clients who are usually not top climbing atheletes.(Clients pay upwards of $70thousand to be guided up Everest by professional guides as part of an expedition, not $40thousand as you suggest in your blog.)

To attempt to save someone suffering from what is called "Altitude Sickness" (HAPE and/or HACE) while in "The Death Zone" is as foolish and futile as trying to save someone on the moon. Moreover, the descent from the summit of Everest is the single most dangerous part of the climb.

Rescues are routinely undertaken on Everest, but rarely if ever in "The Death Zone" (especially if the one needing rescue has not responded to medical intervention/injections, and is raving in the throes of Altitude Sickness, or worse is unconsious and immobile.)

Everyone who climbs Everest is familiar with the harsh facts. Everest is festooned with dozens of frozen dead bodies of those who never made it down alive. One needs to save themselves on Everest, even experienced guides who are responsible to some extent for client safety, especially when in "The Death Zone".

The individuals who continued to summit passing the dying man on the way up and those who passed the dying man on the descent down were not cruel unfeeling and immoral individuals by virtue of that fact alone as your blog suggests.

I am not a Poseik, but I would imagine that one is not obligated to risk their own life to save someone who is highly unlikely to make it down the mountain alive.

Sincerely yours,
Yonah Ginsburg
Monsey, New York

(PS- I am not a professional climber. During a personal crisis some years back which sorely tested the limits of my emunah and bitochin, I read every Everest book in the public library about what it takes to keep going and make it down alive.)

(1) A, June 18, 2006 12:00 AM


seems like an acronym for 'Edging G-d Out'
Last week a trucker I'll call 'D' was sent north along a good but winding highway (between N.E.Ontario and N.W. Quebec); a young man near his 20's was being pursued by his aunt; upon seeing the transport truck on one of these tight curves, the young man steered his vehicle towards the truck taking his life. The trucker (was and still is very devastated by this)jumped out of his truck to try to save the young man who shortly afterwards died in his arms... when the aunt arrived she told the trucker "you killed my nephew" - a horrible accusation. 'D'cannot bring himself to go back to work at this time and doesn't know how to live with himself - and yes! now he feels 'he killed' a human life! (thanks to aunt perhaps? and her thoughtless words?). So why was he being pursued? it was said he was on a suicide mission...
So here we have: a young man taking away his life; a trucker who did all he could to save a life.
On the other side of the world 40 mountain hikers ignoring someone dyeing: All ego here. We've read enough stories on these climbers, and many have retreated and adjusted their plans to avoid human loss. These 40 have no excuses.
'D' too could have said many things but instead tried to save a life... his goal wasn't to climb or descend a mountain, but to do his job and get home to his family, and he won't be able to sleep well for some time. With the help of G-d I hope he comes to understand the opportunity he rose up to. No ego here.

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