Hillary condemns mountaineers who left Briton to die on Everest

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The Independent Online

Sir Edmund Hillary has condemned attitudes to climbing Mount Everest as "horrifying" as climbers "don't give a damn for anybody else who may be in distress".

The first man to the summit of Everest, in May 1953, said people have a "duty" to try to help people they find on the mountain in distress.

His comments come days after the first double amputee to climb Everest defended his decision not to help a British climber who lay dying on the mountain.

New Zealander Mark Inglis, aged 47, revealed that his party saw a stricken David Sharp as they climbed the 29,028ft peak. He said Mr Sharp, 34, from Guisborough in Cleveland, was suffering from oxygen deprivation when he passed him sheltering under a rock. His body remains on the mountain.

"Trouble is, at 8,500m it's extremely difficult to keep yourself alive, let alone keep anyone else alive," Mr Inglis said.

Sir Edmund, also a New Zealander, said: "On my expedition there was no way that you would have left a man under a rock to die. It simply would not have happened. It would have been a disaster from our point of view. There have been a number of occasions when people have been neglected and left to die and I don't regard this as a correct philosophy. I am absolutely certain that if any member of our expedition all those years ago had been in that situation we would have made every effort," he told the New Zealand Herald.

Mr Inglis had told New Zealand's Close Up programme: "On that morning, over 40 people went past that young Brit. I was one of the first. We radioed [and expedition manager] Gus said, 'Look, you can't do anything. He's been there x number of hours, without oxygen. He's effectively dead'."

Mr Sharp was on his way down from the world's highest mountain when he got into difficulties. The engineer had climbed alone, after leaving the UK on 27 March to travel to Everest's base camp. He was on his third climb of Everest when he apparently ran out of oxygen about 984ft (300m) below the summit as he made his descent. Climbers found his body in a cave last week, 1,000ft (305m) below the summit.

A University of Otago scientist, Dr Phil Ainslie, said "had Sharp been given oxygen by another climber he could have recovered up to 80 per cent of his capacity."