I want it and I want it now… I want it and I want it now… I want it and i wa…

The west is a consumer society, our world runs on people wanting and buying, buying and wanting… I don’t have a problem with this, it’s better than communism. But what I do find difficult to accept is the, ‘I want and I want it now’; western attitude when is taken into climbing, and especially climbing in the greater ranges.

Below is a link to a piece of writing by Anselm Murphy that I was pointed to when he posted a thread on UK Climbing about his recent trip to Kanchenjunga and the rescue situation which followed after he summited.        



(Since I began to write this post UK Climbing has made this story into a news item which can be found here)


I read his account about the rescue of a Brazilian/American team mate Cleo Weidlich getting more angry the more I read, and the more I read, the more infuriated I got about the authors lack of experience,

“After graduating from University in 2005 I set myself the goal of climbing Mount Everest.  At this point I had not done any climbing.”

which in my mind brought about this rather ignorant and haughty view-point he has written about in his blog post.

We all need to strive for personal goals and have dreams and ambition, but what I don’t understand is people who don’t want to learn about climbing (and themselves in the process) through, the usual and accepted way. Rock climb in Britain, then move on to winter climbing in Wales and Scotland. A few years of Alpine climbing. Somewhere relatively straight forward like Alaska could be experienced and then, after about 6 years, the Himalayas. In taking this approach not only is a person learning to look after themselves in the hills, gaining experience in this way also gives a greater understanding, a greater depth of knowledge and a better understanding of what rock climbing and mountaineering involves.What it does not do is put someone who does not have the skill and experience high on a Himalayan mountain totally depending on someone else. 

If someone wants to become a climber for the right reasons, e.g. they love being in the hills, the action, history, adventure, involvement, experience, frustration, friendships, I have no problem if they eventually want to climb Everest (Although I don’t understand it as Everest is now no longer a serious challenge, or an adventure, or wilderness experience for someone who is relatively fit and healthy and has the money.)

I would like to think Mr Murphy set himself these 8000 metre challenges, or as he likes to call them adventures, (Got some news for you Mr Murphy, climbing Lillaz and Patri left hand in Cogne are not really adventures! http://www.anselm-murphy.com/climbing-photos/) because he has a love of the high mountains, but I suspect he is using the mountains, as many people do nowadays, as a career move to become an adventure celebrity or hosting a reality TV programme or something else as trite. (I’ll be happy if i’m proven wrong, time will tell i suppose. )

Reading his blog it appears; please correct me if this is wrong, he has basically only climbed Island Peak, Mera Peak (both of these high altitude walks that can be done on one five week trip from Britain and without any previous climbing experience at all. I have just returned from the Mera area where clients of a large commercial company had to be shown how to attach crampons.) and Aconcagua before Cho Oyo, Everest and finally Kanchenjunga and as far as I can tell, they have all been commercial expeditions with guides. This is not exactly climbing for exploring and adventure. The first three of these mountains are walks and seriously over exploited trade routes and the second two are not technical climbs, especially when, as Mr Murphy did, you climb fixed ropes, use oxygen, have your gear and supplementary oxygen carried up for you and have a Sherpa to break trail. Kanchenjunga is slightly more technical but not when you are climbing fixed rope, using oxygen and again having everything carried and set up for you by a Sherpa.

So, the crux of this post.

After reading Mr Murphy’s report the thing I wanted to say was yes, some of the actions taken by the Sherpa’s sounded like the wrong decisions, but Sherpa’s are not machines, they are not super human, they are human beings made of flesh and blood and bone who get scared, suffer, cry, get altitude sickness, frostbite and think about their wives and children. Sherpa’s live in a third world country where education for hill people is rare so the best way to earn money is by risking their lives to fix rope, carry oxygen, carry food, carry tents and molly coddle people who want something immediately without gaining the experience to actually do it in good style, and in good style I mean without the use of Sherpas, or oxygen or fixed rope and by carrying your food and stove and gas and tent. Do you really think by paying some money to a person they should die or risk their lives more than they already have? When things go wrong like it did in this case, if Cleo Weidlich or you had gained the experience that you both should have gained in the first place, you could possibly get yourself out of trouble and then would not have to rely on other human beings to do it for you resulting in you get upset when you find out they are fallible and as scared to die as much as you.  

Another  annoying fact of this type of mountaineering is how people attempting to climb 8000 metre mountains with very little actual climbing experience (I use the term climb loosely as jumaring fixed ropes is not climbing) appear to think that handing over a load of cash will help when the crap hits the fan . No mountain guide or a Sherpa can guide an 8000 metre mountain when the weather comes in and with more experience you would know this and would not be shocked when it turns into every man and woman for themselves.   

I am pleased that Cleo Weidlich has recovered, and well done in helping her, but she was a member of your climbing party and a friend and I would expect nothing less. So maybe in the future if she returns to the mountains she will have gained more experience, so she does not have to depend on other people and hopefully Mr Murphy will do the same and his attitude about others risking their lives for him, as the Sherpas did by fixing rope, setting up camps, going to the summit, carrying oxygen and gear, will be a little more forgiving.

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16 Responses to I want it and I want it now… I want it and I want it now… I want it and i wa…

  1. Everest SW face alpine style in winter?

  2. Nick Bullock says:

    You lead the hard pitches Andy and i’m with you all the way! 😉

  3. luca signorelli says:

    Hey, I’ve lead Lillaz and Patri L twice, can I go to K2? Seriously, well written and 100% correct.

  4. benjones says:

    I agree with most of what you have said…except for the parts about what climbing is and isn’t…..but also why do you feel like you can tell someone that what they are doing is not adventure? Adventure for a lot of people might be something as simple as an afternoon hike or a day of top-ropping at the local crag.

  5. Brad Jackson says:

    It seems that Claire and Ansel shared a permit rather than be defined as team mates this is the way of sharing the costs of 8000 m peaks. If Clare did have HACE as is the most likely scenario then Ansel did everything in his capacity to aid and assist. What would a so called more experienced person have done? I think trying Kanch after a successful summit of Everest is an acceptable level of experience. We all know that the Himalayan peaks have no rules or regulations to define who attempts or who does not and that is part of the draw of being in the Himalayas.

    I say well done to Ansel for helping out and a seemingly honest and transparent attempt to transcribe events as he perceived and say less well done to the Monday night quarter-backing.

  6. John Frieh says:

    Well said Nick. More importantly thanks and respect for standing up and saying what many of us are thinking, even if it’s unpopular with some. Regards

  7. Mark Twight says:


    I haven’t seen something that made me feel strongly about climbing for a while. Thank you for pointing this out, and for bearing the standard.

    Those routes are gone, become the superhighways of the high mountains. The climber-as-consumer is here to stay and the summit is his/her commodity. For them, having done it is deemed of greater value than actually learning how to do it, preparing to do it, doing it or failing to do it, and learning even more from that. We often used to say, “they want to be climbers but they don’t want to do the climbing.” And they can’t be battled or educated. Once the monster has had a taste it stops at nothing to acquire more trophies – all of which result from exactly the same experience as the previous: jugging fixed lines on Kangchenjunga can’t be much different or more evolved than jugging fixed lines on Everest.

    I won’t say fighting is futile but perhaps it makes sense to let the consumers hold the ground they occupy, and accept the Outhouse Theory: it keeps all the shit in one place. Let them have their shortcuts, let them dope, let them buy their “victories,” but ultimately, ignore them.

    At the same time redraw the line to defend what you believe truly matters, illuminate it, broadcast it, and constantly refine how to communicate about it. Hoist a flag for others to follow. Plant it on the high ground where those consumers and posers dare not tread. Unassailable.


    • jerry says:

      Jeez mark you need to relax a bit. I would`ve thought you`d take out enough aggresion at gym jones!! Just cos not everyone wants to tackle the most dangerous routes in alpine style certainly doesn`t make them any less ballsy in my book. I`ve read your lit before and we all know guided expedtions etc are not your style but that doesn`t mean everyone has to do what you USED to do. I also remember a piece you wrote after that chap was rescued from nanga parbat-i think you called him a sad sack for wanting rescue and getting it!! come on,the mountains are for enjoyment and should not be for the few who think themselves elitest. i started climbing 8 years ago and got into bigger mountains 5 yrs ago visiting the himalayas 3 times in 4 years and i`m proud to say i was part of a pro led team each time,it takes nothing away from what i`ve achieved in my book. Anyone trolling on Anselm and his acheivments banging on about standard bearing and such crap need to get a life!

  8. Djones says:

    Very well put. And I also particularly enjoyed Twight’s Outhouse Theory. Perhaps my only quibble is that I would recommend putting in a couple years in the relatively straight-forward Himalaya before venturing into Alaska.

  9. I’ve come in for a lot of criticism here and there are a several things that I’d like to respond to then forget about this whole mess.

    I think Nick’s article borders on being a personal attack on me, and he makes several negative assumptions about me despite never having met me. A large part of this article is devoted to attacking me and not even about the rescue/commercialisation issue. I believe I have unfairly become a target for everyone who opposes the commercialisation of mountaineering. That’s what a lot of this boils down to – and I can certainly understand everyone’s concern about it. I have privately corresponded with Nick about this and his response was a little bit more moderate than this article.

    Nick’s whole argument is from the view point that if you don’t climb in the most hardcore style (i.e. no O2, sherpa support, fixed ropes etc) then you’re climbing somehow doesn’t matter/you shouldn’t be able to climb like this in the first place. I fundamentally disagree with this. I climb because it’s fun and I like it. What does it matter if I use oxygen/fixed rope? (as long as I’m not making false claims/comparing myself to people who don’t). Clearly climbing in this way is not as much of an achievement as doing without these aids, but why does that matter? I’m not claiming to be anything I’m not. I, like many people, get enjoyment out of climbing at my own level. Everyone doesn’t have to be elite.

    Here are a few things Nick wrote that are just plain wrong:
    “I suspect he is using the mountains, as many people do nowadays, as a career move to become an adventure celebrity or hosting a reality TV programme or something else as trite”
    No that is totally wrong, and this really, really annoyed me. How dare you accuse me of this kind of nonsense without having met me.

    Referring to my climbs:
    “as far as I can tell, they have all been commercial expeditions with guides”
    There was no guide on Kangchenjunga.

    Referring to the difficulty of Kangchenjunga:
    “Kanchenjunga is slightly more technical (than Everest) but not when you are climbing fixed rope”
    There were very few fixed ropes placed above 7000m this season. Nothing at all was placed above c7900m. Some of the most difficult parts of the route are near the summit (8400m and up) Obviously not so hard compared to the kind of climbing Nick gets up to, but hard enough for 8500m. There were some ropes up high left here and there from previous years, but nearly all were very badly frayed and no help.

    Nick says that he was “infuriated by my lack of experience” and points to a quote on my website: “After graduating from University in 2005 I set myself the goal of climbing Mount Everest. At this point I had not done any climbing.”

    Well, everyone has to start somewhere. As I have said to Nick, since climbing Everest I can much better understand his dislike for everything that goes on there. So maybe I got into climbing in the ‘wrong’ way, but I would now call myself a real climber because I did not stop after Everest. Everything Nick mentions about what he considers the ‘proper’ way of getting into climbing, eg British Rock, Wales/Scotland winter/Alps, I have done. I just don’t put every rock climbing or Welsh trip on my website. He also gives the somewhat arbitrary time period of 6 years experience as the right time for you to go to the Himalayas. Well I have now been climbing for 7 years.

    The website was created just before this Kangch trip to try and help find some sponsorship – so it has to be aimed more at people who don’t understand mountaineering and be simple. Putting up stuff like “I led a WI4” or whatever means nothing to the general public. By the way, all of the climbs I’ve done have been made possible by saving up forever and sacrificing a lot, from the way Nick was writing I guess he has assumed that someone else has paid for me to do these climbs. They did not.

    Nick was in my view very elitist and unfair in his criticism of my experience – stuff like the condescending “Got some news for you Mr Murphy, climbing Lillaz and Patri left hand in Cogne are not really adventures!”
    Well maybe they were adventures to me? Just because I’m not leading WI6s doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy these kinds of climbs.

    The criticism I most strongly disagree with in the whole article is this though:
    “if Cleo Weidlich or you had gained the experience that you both should have gained in the first place, you could possibly get yourself out of trouble and then would not have to rely on other human beings to do it for you”
    Explain to me how I did not have enough experience to get myself out of trouble, or how I relied on others to do it for me? Ted and I not only got ourselves down, but we got Cleo down too.
    After EVERYONE else (25-30 people) left and went down only Ted and I stayed behind to help. Which we did successfully – so how was I not experienced enough?

    How many people criticising me have spent 6 days above 7000m (last 2 days with barely any food) and managed to get an injured person down off the mountain?

    The issue of the sherpa behaviour is another point. Many people seem to be annoyed at me because they see what I wrote as a criticism of sherpas in general. What I wrote was a factual account of exactly what happened. No one has disputed the accuracy of anything I wrote. So if some sherpas come out of it looking bad, maybe that’s because how they acted was pretty bad.

    Nick said in an email to me that he knew he was making me out to be the bad guy in this, and that was because I was in his view “making very serious criticisms (rightly or wrongly) of the Sherpas from a very inexperienced point of view.”
    I have re-read what I wrote and stand by every word. What criticsims have I wrongly made?
    Why is it that I am made out to be the bad guy, but the sherpas who left their client to die aren’t even mentioned? At the very least they could have told me and Ted that they were going to leave. But they just abandoned her.
    I think everyone needs to be judged on their actions, not on whether or not they are a sherpa. I think if it was western climbers that had left Cleo in the state I found her, then they would be very heavily critcised for it. So why is everyone annoyed at me for saying the sherpas were wrong to do this? The sherpas in question were actually Cleo’s personal sherpas, so paid specifically to help her. (people having this kind of help is another issue entirely – I actually think that you should not be this reliant on sherpas, but given that they had taken her money, I think they had a duty to try a bit harder) If Ted and I were able to stay and help, they were definitely capable of staying too. They were much stronger than us.

  10. Nick Bullock says:


    I can understand your anger at what I wrote, and I do apologise for what you consider is a personal attack.

    You are right, as are others, what right do i have to say what is an adventure and what is not an adventure, even though i stand by the fact that for someone who has done what you have, Lilaz, a grade three icefall next to the road in the centre of an Italian village is not an adventure and to call it one on your blog is misleading and hype.

    Yes, i certainly came to several conclusions, wrongly or rightly after reading your blog, and if they are wrong conclusions it is only because that is how they come across.

    Maybe a more personal approach to writing and your experiences and less of the trying to attract sponsors would help and then possibly not attract the type of attention and the criticism you don’t like. If you were maybe a little more patient in your endeavours to climb 8000m mountains and attempt some slightly more technical peaks in better style first you would not need to hype some of you climbs which are very standard to those who are in the know and the sponsors would come to you. It would also give you a comeback to people like me that are allowed to have a different opinion and question your opinion.

    On your, you didn’t have a guide on this trip, I think that by having several Sherpa’s breaking trail and setting up camps etc and having these guys there to help you in times of trouble, (whether they actually did or did not), is in my opinion, you fooling yourself to say this was not a guided trip.

    As i said in my original post, I commend you for not ignoring Cleo, but the abandoning fellow climbers in the mountains we all hear about is something that has been epitomised by the commercial expedition trade and is not something that happens when friends go to the mountains and I would have expected nothing less. The fact that people commend you for this, (rightly so as saving a human life is commendable), is highlighted only because the wrong people with the wrong attitude and the wrong reasons are in the mountains and they do not have the bond to save a fellow human being as that fellow human being is nothing to them and let’s face it they have paid a lot of money to be where they are haven’t they!

    Only having fun, no harm you say… I can think of so many reasons why commercial expeditions filling the mountains with inexperienced people is harming climbing as a whole and by this I mean rock climbing, alpine climbing, Scottish winter climbing and greater ranges climbing. The knock-on effects from what the general public see as climbing from this type of expeditions when they are reported for whatever reason is dramatic.

    And how you were not experienced enough was answered in my original post. Would you have been there if the fixed ropes were not in place, if you were not using oxygen, if the Sherpa’s were not carrying your gear and breaking trail?

    You are criticising me for being elitist, well so be it, everyone is entitled to an opinion if delivered in an intelligent way, but why should the mountains be different from the way the world works, I do not expect to perform an operation on a patient without training and experience and I do not expect to climb rock climbs that are too difficult for me and I do not want to see them bolted or chipped so I can, this is an accepted norm, so why are the mountains different and why do people scream of elitism when this opinion is voiced.

    Simply, let’s take down all of the fixed rope, the rubbish, the camps, the ladders and the bolts, let’s meet the mountain, let’s climb it by fair means and let us celebrate our achievement when we do. And when it’s too difficult to climb a mountain in this style, let’s be humble and accept in life there will always be places we are not good enough to go and then we can celebrate those who really are.


  11. Michelle Bouvoir says:

    Mr. Bullock,

    I met Cleo in Chamonix while she was climbing here in the Alps. I can’t believe what I’m reading here… Cleo is a highly experienced climber in rock, ice, snow and mixed terrain. With multiple summits and climbs in the Andes, Alps, Karakorum, North America and the Himalayas. She’s topped several 8000ers including: Gasherbrum I, Manaslu, Everest, Cho Oyu, and central summits of Shisha, Broad Peak and others (these trip reports are all over the net). Something must have gone terribly wrong on Kangchenjunga (I heard she had a violent fall near the summit). These unfortunate events that happened to her could happen to anyone regardless of experience or physical strength. People get snow blindness while skiing in low altitude. Athletes tear their ligaments while running at sea level.

    The heli pilots, 3 Swiss pilots from Air Zermatt trained in high altitude rescue and wilderness medicine using a Fishtail heli were called and tried for two days to get to Cleo, they were quoted by the Basel newspaper that on the first attempt they failed, then overnighted on nearby Taplejung, early in the morning tried again and were successful. They rescued her from C2 at 6,400m after they failed at 7,000m because the temps were too high. They said they commended her for her courage and toughness to descend a mountain this dangerous on her own even though she was snow blinded and had a serious knee injury. She was only directed or guided down from C3 to C2 by the Irish men. It’s reported that she didn’t use O2 on the ascent. On the descent she did her own rappels even though she was snow blinded she down climbed from the summit to C2, without being carried or dragged by anyone, with lateral knee ligaments + ACL torn, and her meniscus destroyed! Can you guys envision being that tough???? We should not criticize one’s climbing style as it is a very personal experience. From what I understand, everyone in this expedition had a personal Sherpa, including Mr. Anselm Murphy and Mr. Ted Atkins.

  12. Murilo Lessa says:

    Hmmm I am brasilian and I dont know Cleo but she has been under a lot of investigation by the brazilian climbing community because many of her “ascents” where not proved, among them:

    Spantik (Paquistão, 7027m) (1997 e 2003)
    K6 or Baltistan Peak (Paquistão, 7281m) (2003)
    Muztagh Ata (China, 7546m) (sem data)
    Lingtren (Nepal, 6720m) (2004)
    Pumori (Nepal, 7161m) (2007)
    “Mouneera Peak” (Paquistão, ~7000m) (2008)
    Cho Oyu (Nepal/China, 8188m) (2009)
    Broad Peak (Paquistão, 8047m) (2009)

    I cant understsand why would someone claim something they have not done… Poor of the one who trusts and might discover too late that their partner is not that of a hot shoot…
    Murilo Lessa

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