November 5, 2021
What Are the Ethics of Using Someone Else’s Gear Cache to Make First Ascent?
Tom Livingstone and Matt Glenn just claimed the first ascent of the north pillar of Tengkangpoche, a 21,000-foot-plus peak in Nepal. Okay! But, there’s a but. They did it using the beta provided by Quentin Roberts and a food and gear stache left behind on the route by Roberts, who’d made two unsuccessful attempts at the peak in recent seasons. The most recent attempt turned him away near the summit, and Roberts and his partner Jesse Huey left the stache behind for their next attempt.
Livingstone and Glenn came upon the stache last week during their climb and decided to eat the food, use the gas canisters for their stove, and make use of some climbing aids left by Roberts and Huey—without asking. They profusely thanked Roberts for the beta, and promised to replace the food and gear, but also beat Roberts to the first ascent by using his gear.
Climbing writer Andrew Bisharat wrote an article about Livingstone and Glenn’s choice that has stirred the climbing pot to bubbling this week, and yesterday published a follow up to his first controversy-stoking essay. (AJ reached out to Bisharat about republishing his piece here, but Bisharat declined).
The second piece, in which Bisharat really gets into the weeds about climbing style and ethics is the truly interesting essay. Questions about the ethics of red-tagging, whether that was happening here, poaching gear, style in the mountains, first ascents, all of it.
Livingstone wrote a response, here.
Roberts, wrote his own followup on his Instagram account:
Roberts and Livingstone seem to have buried the hatchet, while the climbing internet takes the ball and runs with it. Roberts wisely points out that when only certain parts of a story are shared via social media, those are the only parts many people will see.
Interesting stuff, and questions worth asking, etc.