In a beautifully written article for New York Times, aptly named as ‘Deliverance from 27000 Feet’, John Branch talks about death of Indian mountaineers at Mt. Everest. He details out the effort of bringing down the body from the mountaintop and the reasons led to it.
He talks about the protocols most mountaineers follow.
The round-trip journey from Camp 4 takes some people less than 12 hours, and experienced guides and climbers know that it should take no more than about 18 — 12 hours up, six hours back. Most follow a rule that at a predetermined time — rarely later than noon — all climbers still moving up should retreat. Prolonged exposure is dangerous, and sometimes deadly, because of the unpredictability of afternoon weather, the limited number of oxygen bottles that can be carried and the toll caused by extreme elevation and temperatures.
A woman and two guides were the first of 74 people to reach the summit that day, at 3:36 a.m., according to the Himalayan Database. The last recorded time for climbers reaching the summit was 11 a.m.
Then he details out the interaction between the guides and West Bengal Expedition.
The West Bengal expedition stood at the Balcony well after dawn, resting and taking in the majestic views of snow-covered peaks and cloud-shrouded valleys. The Base Camp manager for the Indian expedition received a radio call from Bishnu Gurung, the only one of the group’s guides with experience reaching the summit of Everest. He said he recommended to the clients that they turn back, but they refused.
“I told them, ‘If we are still on the Balcony at 10 in the morning, how can we reach the top?’ ” Gurung said. Ghosh cried at the prospect of giving up, Gurung later said. Paul began ascending on his own.
“I stopped there just to check if he will return back if I didn’t continue,” Lakpa Sherpa, Paul’s guide, said. “I thought he would listen to me. Sherpas can’t use force or hit him in that situation. They are our guest. All we could do is convince. As he wasn’t convinced, I followed him.”
Only Nath was persuaded to turn back to Camp 4. The three other Indian climbers persisted. The three guides joined them, carrying a dwindling amount of oxygen and a growing sense of dread.
Eventually, only one member of the team would make it back alive.
It is often very difficult to quit/snap ties when you have invested so much, whether it’s in the company or the relationship. Knowing when to quit is often a useful skill even though it might appear as an apparent weakness.
It keeps you alive and in the game, rather than to perish bravely.