Lam Babu Deserved More Respect

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Alpine start. (All rights reserved)

Yesterday afternoon I got a text that read: “Everest used in publicity stunt gone wrong…. what is climbing coming to???”

There was no link, no context.

I don’t have the courage to repeat my flip reply. I engaged in name calling. I meant what I said. But I’ll leave it at that.

When my snarky reflex muscles relaxed a moment, I searched for the details and this from Fox News popped up as the top result, which was only hours old: “Sherpa feared dead on Mount Everest following ASKfm’s cryptocurrency publicity stunt.”

Essentially, a Sherpa made it to the summit and left a wallet with cryptocurrency to be found by some else with the interest and resources to go climb the mountain to go get it. What was this supposed to do? Cause a mad dash of money-grabbing, possibly inexperienced climbers to buy a ticket, hire a guide, and wait for the weather window? Was this the mountain version of the 1965 movie The Great Race?

ASKfm left $50,000 in digital funds in its wallet at the top. Considering an attempt costs about $40,000, there’s not much of a margin to make.

The worst part, and probably the only reason this story crossed my path when it did, Fox News and other media outlets, was the irony that one of its team members, Lam Babu Sherpa, who allegedly was left behind on the descent, was missing, and later determined to be dead. And ASKfm’s news release about the stunt omits this. Any death on any climb can’t go unacknowledged. Despite some ideas to the contrary, it is extremely rare for a climber to accept the risk of death as a possible outcome so absolute fashion to be nonchalant about it. This event taints the story. It also bugs me that the advertisers, and the climbers burying the wallet on the summit, didn’t treat the death differently. It should have canceled the publicity.

I like climbing, but the general climbing news from Everest is rarely worthwhile these days. It also ruins or suppresses the better stories about climbing, including climbing Everest.

For me, if it has to be news from Everest, I prefer this one. My sister recently came across an old issue of Sports Illustrated and immediately thought of me and saved it until I visited Upstate New York during Memorial Day. If I have to see climbing in the mainstream news, I wish is was more like this:

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