For and Against Using Oxygen

Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in the year 1953 gave a ray of hope to thousands of other mountaineers who always dreamt of reaching the summit of Mount Everest one day. They succeeded climbing Mount Everest by conquering and overcoming all the obscurities and complexities that arrived in their path. Their caches of supplement oxygen proved to be of great help in their entire route to the summit of Mount Everest. If they had not been carrying those extra bottles of oxygen in their expedition, then maybe they could not have reached the summit. After their success people considered that carrying superfluous oxygen in such expeditions is mandatory for achieving success.

But this mindset was challenged by two famous mountaineers Peter Habeler and Reinhold Messner who reached the same summit without having any extra bottled oxygen. Their successful expedition to Mount Everest in 1978 proved to be the toughest and the finest expedition to date.

Ever since such two expeditions succeeded, one with oxygen bottles and one without any extra oxygen it triggered the controversy of whether it is necessary to climb any high altitude mountain with the help from bottled oxygen or not.

The conditions that exist on the path towards the summit of Mount Everest are very hostile. Oxygen is available in traces and this make conditions extremely difficult for humans to survive. As the height from the sea level increase the oxygen level decreases rapidly. As a mountaineer reaches more and more height it becomes very difficult for him or her to breathe and chances on instant death rises enormously. Considering the facts that we have just mentioned it is essential that every mountaineer carries bottled oxygen on his expedition to just heights. It is not only important for the success of the expedition but is also crucial for his or her life. It is totally fare to support the use of bottled oxygen for climbing Mount Everest and other high mountains. No expedition should be given more importance than the life of the mountaineer.

There have been many cases in which people were on the verge of dying because they were trying to climb Mount Everest without taking aid from supplementary oxygen. One person who never supported its use to such excursions was George Leigh Mallory. A member of the British 1921, 1922 and 1924 Everest expeditions, he successfully reached many great heights without the use of bottled oxygen. George did change his mind on his second summit attempt during the 1924 expedition and used bottled oxygen for the first time, believing in the end that it may help him reach the summit. All those who still are against the use of bottled oxygen believe that a mountaineer should be able to reach the height he targets of without any oxygen because it shows his capabilities and strength. Many people but not the majority considers carrying bottled oxygen to be unethical.

Mountain climbing can be done keeping in mind two approaches, one is two give importances to the medical parameters and the second one is to give whole importance to the ethics. Medical parameters that are necessary while climbing is to carry bottled oxygen but ethical approach is completely contradictory to the medical approach. Ethics in mountain climbing states that it is not right to use bottled oxygen while climbing high altitude mountains. The use of bottled oxygen has attracted many controversies over the years and still there is no final solution or statement heard from those who are in power. On humanitarian grounds it is sensible to use it.

There is absolutely nothing more important than life. So why to put your life at stake? Even if you are extremely passionate about climbing mountains and reaching the summit of Mount Everest then you can only make that happen if you are alive. Risking your life and facing extreme conditions so high above the sea level can prove disastrous. It is fine if we give importance to the ethics of the climbing world but it will not be fair to risk a life for reaching any summit when it can be achieved without any risk to life. Bottled oxygen may or may not be the right thing for mountaineers. But for life at such a high altitude, bottled oxygen is perfect.

The debate on whether to use it or not will probably always be there. Different climbing societies have different perspectives. Some find it sensible to use bottled oxygen and the other finds it sensible but unethical. These two ends never seem to meet and this difference in perspective and the definition of ‘Ethics’ will never be perfectly defined. The most convenient way at the moment is to let the mountaineers and their respective groups decide what is best for them. It should be left on them as to whether they want to use bottled oxygen for climbing or not. Both of them should respect the decision taken by the individual and should not disrespect or discard the approach used for reaching the summit.

This is the most appropriate method that can be employed for giving some relief to this never ending argument. Such discussions where to parties have equal votes and equal strengths must be either concluded or resolved like this. Reaching the summit of Mount Everest is a very big achievement. Reaching the summit should be given importance because that is not a task that anyone can accomplish. Whether a person reached there with or without bottled oxygen are secondary considerations.