What's the reason behind your self-criticism?

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine

Jon Krakauer

What's the reason behind your self-criticism?
Question: Jon,

You have repeatedly criticized yourself and your actions when speaking and writing about the events last May. It's hard for me to believe, however, that you really believe there were things you could have done differently.

Could it be that your self-criticism is instead your way of giving yourself permission to point out the culpability of others? Believe me, I think your honest, critical evaluation of the events were justified. I also believe that, in order to have some credibility, you had to shoulder some of the blame, whether or not it was justified. If you told people "It wasn't my fault ... Blame Pittman/Hansen/Lobsang/etc., etc.," no one would have had much sympathy for your position.

My own opinion (I'm sure you've heard more than you can bear): I think Ang Dorje, sulking on the summit ridge and refusing to fix ropes, was let off easy. (He's with Cotter's team this year.) I wouldn't have been as kind to him as you've been. Maybe Lobsang was following orders, but Ang Dorje should have gotten his fair share of the blame.

Joe Giammarco
[email protected]

Jon: Dear Joe,

When I castigated myself in my book, it was because I believed — and continue to believe — that some of my actions on May 10-11, 1996 were shameful and inexcusable; I didn't engage in self-criticism simply to strike a pose. I haven't enjoyed flogging myself in public, but I felt that it was absolutely necessary to acknowledge my own failings if the book was to have credibility and integrity.

Regarding Ang Dorje's actions, I don't think he did anything he needs to apologize for. When he refused to fix ropes on the summit ridge, it was because none of Scott Fischer's Sherpas were present, and by that time the plan to fix ropes ahead of time had broken down completely. As we waited at the South Summit between 11 a.m. and noon, neither Rob Hall nor Scott had arrived, it wasn't at all clear to Ang Dorje that anyone would even be going to the summit, and he wanted to get the okay from Rob before he climbed higher.

The year before, you may recall, Lopsang had decided on his own to go to the summit alone, after Rob and the rest of his team turned around, and Lopsang had incurred Rob's wrath for doing so.

N E X T   Q U E S T I O N

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