A picture of the 1996 Everest Expedition team. Twelve climbers died in a terrifying blizzard on Everest on May 10, 1996. Beck Weathers, a member of the team, was abandoned on the mountain by fellow climbers during extreme blizzard conditions. Surviving in the end however, Weathers gained the strength to stumble back to camp despite suffering many long term physical injuries.
When on the mountain people depend on their teammates to look after them and to have their backs; It’s this loyalty that gets tested when a member needs help that gambles the lives of fellow climbers, a chance sometimes too hard to take.
Although leaving behind teammates to fend for themselves may seems like an never justified act, in fact, the difficult decision can completely depend on the circumstances and be entirely beneficial for the overall well-being of the team.
“I struggled to my feet. I was lost. I was almost blind. My hands were frozen. My face had been destroyed by the cold. I had not eaten for three days, or had water for two. I remember moving into the wind, praying for deliverance but gradually coming to understand that I wasn’t going to make it through this thing alive. I looked up and I realised that in one more hour as darkness descended again, I would simply kneel and accept the cold moving through me one last time.”
“Lhakpa was right-there was only one choice however difficult:let nature take its inevitable course with Beck and Yasuko, and save the groups resources for those who could actually be helped. It was a classic act of triage.”-Jon Krakauer team member
We learn from Beck Weathers his personal recall of his last moments before losing consciousness. Beck Weathers so close to death, he was covered in a thick layer of snow and ice. Weather's team had seen him after this in a very vital state, they chipped the ice off his face to learn he was barely breathing. Beck Weathers, unconscious and close to death they decided to let nature take its course, but it didn’t. This quote shows just how miraculous Beck Weather's comeback to life was when his teammates and he himself believed he was going to die.
Suffering severe facial burns and frostbite to both hands, Beck Weathers made it to the Khumbu Ice Fall, just below 20,000 feet, where a Nepalese army helicopter picked him up.
A map of the many camps along Everest for the long trek.
The motto "No man left behind" originally comes from the military, but sometimes even troops find themselves making decisions against the motto, sacrificing one soldiers life for the well being of many, a difficult decision made by both the troops and our country itself.
Members of his platoon describe the Bergdahl leaving the base as cowardly. They say while Bergdahl was on guard duty he left his weapons and walked off, leaving those who embarked on search and rescue missions at risk.
“For the veterans of the units that lost these men, Bergdahl’s capture and the subsequent hunt for him will forever tie to their memories, and to a time in their lives that will define them as people. He has finally returned. Those men will never have the opportunity.”-Nathan Bradley Bethea
It can be highly debated whether or not Bergdahl should've been brought home or not, but in the end he was, a man who put his country at risk was left and later saved because America believes that no man shall be left behind, but he was. Before saving him, Bergdahls troop had made the hard decision to leave him knowing quite possibly that they may not get him back.
“And Bergdahl, all I can say is this: Welcome back. I’m glad it's over. There was a spot reserved for you on the return flight, but we had to leave without you, man.”-Nathan Bradley Bethea
Gaining and Breaking Trust for the Greater good
"Essential for one’s own survival, but not enough to address the greater mission that most high-functioning teams must address, Do they naturally understand the greater good?"
The Martian, a 2015 film starring Matt Damon “We either have a high chance of killing one or a low chance of killing six. I’m not risking their lives, it's bigger than just one person.”-Quote The Martian
We learn from multiple perspectives that teams and partners are often faced with the difficult decision to leave a man behind with many different circumstances and stressful situations, the overall choice to do so is often depicted as an emotional and adverse decision among the group members and a choice that must be considering the greater good of the people. Examples of these conflictions can be found in the film industry and real life stories like "Into Thin Air", by Jon Kraquar. Even more complex situations such as military missions force soldiers to make fast decisions for the fate of their country. The emotional connection, and loyalty built up through various journeys between teammates can psychologically challenge the teams decision to leave a loyal member behind making the choice for the greater good even harder.
I have learned from this research the importance of reading all the possible sides a story. It was easy for me to want to shame Weathers and Bergdahls teams for leaving them behind, an action I first perceived as unforgiveable but I soon learned though research the complexity of there situations and the many lives at stakes besides Weathers and Bergdahls. I found It quite remarkable the difficult challenges of trust these teammates face on long journeys, the trust that they will watch out for each other and make brave decisions for eachother.