I read recently about the climber David Sharp who died on Mount Everest after he had attained the summit on his third attempt. Sharp was seen as a loner and he was doing it on the cheap so there was little in the way of a support team behind him.
I don’t understand what makes people put themselves through such an ordeal nor did I know that the slopes of Everest are so busy, or that so many people die in their quest to stand at the top of the highest mountain in the world. I didn’t know that for many climbers, who perish in the mountains, that where they fall becomes their final resting place.
The route that Sharp took was one that has been marked out with guide ropes placed there by the company owned by the New Zealander Russell Brice. On that route climbers must pass by a spot called Green Boots Cave. It is nicknamed for the distinctive green boots on the frozen body of an Indian climber, one of three, who perished in 1996 and who lies there still.
On his descent from the summit Sharp was overcome by exhaustion and cold and he must have crept into the shelter of the crevasse to rest beside the dead Indian climber. But his exhaustion was total. While he sat there dying from hypothermia it is believed that up to 40 climbers passed by him. It’s possible that some didn’t see him. Of those that did see him some may have believed that he was Green Boots. Others must have felt there was nothing they could do. A few stopped and tried to help but felt that it was impossible. By this stage, although he was alive, there was nothing David Sharp could do to help himself.
Last week the murdered body of Shirley Finlay was discovered in a car park in Ballymena. Like David Sharp, Shirley was seen as a bit of a loner. Certainly for the past couple of years she was a familiar figure in the town, walking briskly, always on her own, seemingly in a world of her own. And largely people let her be. One of the most reported ‘facts’ about Shirley is that she was a very solitary person. It wasn’t always so. Shirley did have friends. But towards the end of her too short life they weren’t around. Whether that was entirely Shirley’s choice is open to question. I told myself it was what she wanted. Now I’ll never know.