Summits current: The science of cheating, and our wish (mostly) to keep it real

Posted: Jun 05, 2012 03:59 pm EDT

(Tina Sjogren) "A summit is where everything goes down in each and every direction" thundered Inaki Ochoa, brave and outspoken on the mountains as well as off them.

Large numbers of summits have had to be scrubbed on Manaslu, Shishapangma, Broad Peak and the Gasherbrums in later years due to climbers not making the real top.

Spanish Ochoa made a big deal about the importance of truth. Interestingly, following in his exact footsteps last month, a Spanish team did not top out Shishapangma although at first they thought they did.

50 meters

Reports of success had apparently first spread through
Carlos Pauner's website with the words: "Carlos and his companions have conquered the summit of Shisha Pangma and are back in camp 3."

Summit time was 7 pm, dusk had fallen, the altimeter showed 8000 plus meters, they had reached the top of a ridge, and there was deep snow. A later blog post backtracked the statement: seeing the top in broad daylight the climbers realized they had stopped around 50 meters (180 ft) from target.

Desnivel wrote Juanito Oiarzabal made the correction on his return to BC. Explaining what happened, "we reached that point to over 8,000 meters through effort and persistence," Carlos Pauner said. "In the darkness of the night we did not know if it was the highest point or if there was another close behind."

The poll

There was a time when 50 meters more or less would not have mattered much. Even Messner said climbers such as Miss Oh, turning back just about that distance on at least one of her 8000er peaks, should be cut a slack. So we asked you in a poll, "How many feet below the top should count as a summit?"

The majority, about 2000 votes, allowed very little margin of error. (0 feet/1415 votes; 1-10 ft/493 votes, 10-30 ft/185 votes, 30-100 ft/90 votes).

That kind of a resolve might be a good thing, and a wind of change seems to be blowing in the mountains.

In addition to the Spaniards on Shisha, other climbers went to great lengths last month to get the summit right. On Manaslu, commercial leader Guy Cotter painstakingly described the topo leading to summit true. On Dhaulagiri, independent climber Mario Panzeri even called a buddy from near the top to make sure he'd really stepped on his 14th eight thousander without oxygen.

TED on cheating

A collective fear has been that with the increasing number of participants, false claims in adventure could become impossible to right. Turns out there is hope. All we have to do, as a community, is commit to the truth.

Few of us are shameless liars, imagining summits in base camps or photoshopping the pics of others. Turns out they are not even the big problem, according to research. Instead it's the rest of us, cheating a little that end up costing a lot. And the more we see cheating pan out (cheaters getting their own TV shows) the more we're inclined to participate.

In a TED/NPR show asking "What tricks do our minds play when we think it's okay to lie, cheat, or steal?" the answer offered is an honor code, similar to that of the medical students.

According to experiments performed by the speaker of the TED talk, when subjects committed to an honor code the cheating stopped. Not only that, merely reminding people of related "moral" things such as the ten commandments (no one actually managed to remember all of them) had the same effect.

In other words, once we - as a community - decide it's not OK, the cheating will disappear. Deep inside, the report shows, that is what the majority of us want.

"Talk is cheap at the bar."
"Most of the general media does not have the education or knowledge to understand what is worthy of attention or not."
"Comfort, security and money are the three modern Gods of our western civilized society."
"Friendship is much more meaningful than mountains."

With ‘love for life and freedom’ on top, and ‘money’ on the bottom on his list of priorities; Inaki did and said what he pleased. He had little hope for Mount Everest though, forecasting a lift to the top 50 years from now and guides pointing to the slope below with tales of people who used to go up there on foot. "But why?" tourists would shake their heads and laugh in disbelief.


NPR/TED about cheating

Shishapangma: Spaniards close but not close enough

Montagna speaks to Spaniards about summit mistake

To the real top: Guy's Manaslu debrief, "I'm glad I've travelled this road"

Dhaula: Mario Panzeri breaks 14 eight thousanders no oxygen

Himalaya shakedown, continued: what’s the worth of a summit certificate?

Jorge Egocheaga: "I stopped 12 meters from K2's highest point"

Shisha Pangma TRUE summit report: and the winner is...

ExWeb’s fall 2009 Shisha Pangma special, part 2: Central Summit, virtually there?

Manaslu: ExWeb interview with Carlos Pauner, "you either win or lose; there are no ties here"

K2 report: Missing summit pics and no world records - turning the tables on Fredrik Strang

ExWeb Oh Eun-Sun special report, part 2: the Scoop

Dhaulagiri summit? Kinga and Dodo, "we reached the pole on the ridge, Fredrik skied down from there"

The image proof: Stangl did not summit K2

Oscar Cadiach’s Everest 1985: About true goals, false accusations and short memories

ExWeb interview, Inaki Ochoa final: "Personally I'll boycott the Beijing Olympics this summer

ExWeb interview, Inaki Ochoa part 2: "At best we might be able to postpone the death of Everest"

ExWeb interview, Inaki Ochoa encore, part 1: "the summit is where everything goes down in any and every other direction"

#Mountaineering #Science #topstory #feature

Inaki's route on Shishapangma in blue.
Image by Inaki Ochoa courtesy Inaki Ochoa, SOURCE
"A summit is where everything goes down in each and every direction" thundered Inaki Ochoa, brave and outspoken on the mountains as well as off them.

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