By 1996 it had become pretty routine to climb Mount Everest.
That’s what everyone thought.
All you needed was enough money.
Then you could hire enough guides, enough Sherpas, enough equipment, to make it easy.
It seemed to be the next step in sporting achievements and tourism.
If you’re rich enough, what’s on your bucket list?
All the most extreme experiences, obviously.
First you do jogging, then you do a marathon, then you do a triathlon, then you do Everest.
That’s what money was for: ticking off experiences.
This was a chance for professional climbers to make money.
They opened Everest adventure companies: do the summit for $65K. Which meant they were all competing for the same rich clients.
And that meant advertising, in whatever form.
They couldn’t buy media space, so they needed to generate PR.
Jon Krakauer’s book ‘Into Thin Air’ started this way.
He was commissioned to write an article for ‘Outside’ magazine.
One of the climbing companies agreed to take him along at cost, for the publicity.
One of their competitors persuaded him to go with them instead.
They took him at less than cost, so they’d actually be paying.
One of the other clients was a New York socialite.
She would be streaming information and doing a video blog for NBC.
She not only brought her laptop and video equipment, she even brought her espresso machine.
The teams had all the equipment the Sherpas could possibly carry.
And long as nothing went wrong it should be okay.
But something did go wrong.
Thirty-four people arrived at a bottleneck near the summit, at the same time, and the ropes hadn’t been rigged.
In the time it took the professionals to rig the ropes, the weather changed into a raging, sub-zero blizzard.
They didn’t want the bad publicity of a failed attempt, so they carried on climbing long after they should have turned round.
And eight people died.
What went wrong was lack of respect for the job.
The thinking was, when the first people climbed Everest in 1953 they didn’t have any of the equipment we have today.
Imagine how much easier it must be for us.
So everyone thought they could do it, just the way people always think they can do someone else’s job.
It looks easy enough, how tough could it be?
We all have an opinion on everyone else’s job.
We also have a lack of respect.
Surely we can all choose a voice-over, choose the music, pick a typeface, cast a commercial, say what message should go where,
Anyone can do that, can’t they?
Sure, anyone can do anyone else’s job.
As long as we don’t mind doing it badly, anyone can do that.
Just the same way anyone can climb Everest.
As long as we don’t mind doing it badly.
And as long as nothing goes wrong, we can get away with it.
But what if something does go wrong?
Ah well, that’s when we find not everyone can do everyone else’s job.