The Passion, and the Risks, of Mountaineering

A Sunday Review article asked “Are Mountain Climbers Selfish?” Readers respond.

To the Editor:

Re “Are Mountain Climbers Selfish?” (Sunday Review, April 28):

Francis Sanzaro’s opinion that alpinists “can’t fall out of love” with climbing is undeniably true. Climbers spend very little time worrying or even considering their death; they are in it for the grace, beauty and exhilaration of moving in the mountains.

As Mr. Sanzaro points out, accusations of selfishness usually do not come from climbers’ family and friends; it is only in the world of non-climbers that there is any controversy. For whatever reason, the spectacle of someone clinging to a mountain, and then falling, is like catnip to the public. While passion may not be dimmed by criticism, it can be spurred on by adulation and profit.

The alpinists Mr. Sanzaro is talking about are used to sell everything from energy drinks and automobiles to magazines and movies. Let climbers climb, but look at who profits financially every time a person pushes the ultimate risk just a little bit harder.

Whitney Thurlow
Wanaka, New Zealand
The writer is a mountain guide.

To the Editor:

As long as we don’t send some other young people out into harm’s way to recover the mountain climbers’ bodies, it’s their choice. Similarly, there are those who go out onto Lake Erie to fish from a 14-foot overcrowded aluminum boat without life jackets.

When the inevitable summer storm dumps them into the lake, some other parents’ 20-year-old Coast Guard sons and daughters are expected to save them.

Yes, they are selfish.

John Crotty
Chagrin Falls, Ohio

To the Editor:

Any child whose father or mother has died — in an accident or by a disease — is profoundly affected for life. But we can tell them that mommy or daddy had no choice, that they would have never wanted to leave their families. Mountain climbers choose to put their lives at risk.An independent press needs your supportDiscover the impact of our journalism with unlimited access to The Times

Tell a child that a parent died following “his own path” and living “his dream.” Does anyone honestly think that it will matter to the child or ease his pain? All the child knows is that his life will never be the same.

Elizabeth Palay
Madison, Wis.

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