1 February 2013

Is nothing sacred?


BBC4 ran a programme last night  nominally about Nepal's sherpa moutain guides. Nepal looked as beautiful as I dimly remember. The chaos of Kathmandu, the awe inspiring majesty of the Himalaya, regions where footpaths replace roads and the friendly, dignity of the Nepalese. Who's still waters run deeper than it might appear if their liking for an occasional bloody coup is any indicator.

The commentary though seemed stilted, more World About Us from the 70's,than a Carl Pilkington travelogue. If you looked harder the backstory was revealed. This was an Austrian documentary by an Austrian "Himalayan Historian" he had made the film and he was off looking for corpses.

This was I think, the same guy who went looking for and found George Mallory's body some twenty years back, and then flogged the pictures of the body to the highest bidder. At the time sections of the climbing press were up in arms, I tended to agree. At the time he was saying he wanted to settle the argument on whether or not Mallory and Irving got to the summit in 1924 on the second British expedition.

He never found Mallory's camera although we got to see those grizzly pics of Mallory's battered but well preserved body in what was effectively his grave, very few get carried off  Everest if the pay the price of their mis-adveture. At least I believe he buried the body when he had finished filming it.
So this time he was back looking for Irvine's body to see if he could answer the question finally.

We can argue at length about the rights and wrongs of looking for people's bodies and selling the images for money. What really annoyed me was that he thought it was OK to ask people from one of the poorest countries in the world with some of the highest infant mortality to risk their lives at high altitude looking for the body of a white man.

His defence which was alluded to in the commentary was that its always been like this and that seems awfully like Lance Armstrong's defence for his drug use.

What disappointed me most was that the BBC had bought into the film and were fooled by the headline story and didn't spot the slightly disturbing sub-text.


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