Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Last night I watched part of this Frontline episode, titled Storm Over Everest. It's the story of a doomed expedition that encountered a storm on Everest on May 10th and 11th, 1996. I think around 10 people died, all told. One person was Rob Hall, an experienced climber and guide who stayed up there trying to help another climber. Because of the high winds and the unbelievable cold (minus 100 degrees windchill at night) no one was able to rescue him. Incredibly, he was lucid and his radio worked almost until the end of his life. He was able to speak to his wife through the radio via a satellite phone at base camp and basically say goodbye.

I can't stop thinking about it. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I have this tiny obsession with the idea of a person being stuck, marooned, out there somewhere. Like on a snowy, impossibly tall mountain, in a bog, on the top of a burning skyscraper or under the rubble in the aftermath of an earthquake. And I wonder, is technology a blessing or a curse in that situation? If one is truly marooned, unable to be helped or help themselves, does a last conversation or answering machine message bring a measure of peace? Do the people they leave behind find comfort in that last conversation?

I guess this line of thinking originally started when I found out about the earthquake in Chengdu, China. Chengdu is a city we visited last summer, one of our favorites. Incidentally, it is considered the "gateway to Tibet" for many people, so I guess that's the Everest tie-in. Anyway, I have really tried to limit my news intake regarding this horrible tragedy, knowing it would be very upsetting. I did hear coverage from NPR about a middle school that collapsed and I stood there staring at the radio for a long time. Chengdu is an amazing city. Some of the nicest people we met on our trip live there.