Internet Death Video Puts Dark Spin on Aconcagua Tragedy
The climbing world has been buzzing with controversy ever since video footage was released on YouTube showing a team of rescuers apparently standing idle while mountain guide Federico Campanini died on 22,841-foot Aconcagua. The video, which was leaked by unknown sources first to Campanini's parents and then onto the Internet, has provoked a federal investigation of the team's tactics and has polarized the debate about high altitude rescues.
Campanini's father has criticized the rescue team, commenting that they should have been carrying oxygen and a stretcher. We contacted Contributing Editor David Roberts, who writes about Everest, K2, and the world's great mountaineers for the magazine, to weigh in.
"Those criticisms go overboard. Campanini was obviously close to death when they found him, and according to the AP, it wasn't just hypothermia. He was also injured in the avalanche that killed another member of his group. Also, you can't carry a person in that condition down on a stretcher from near the summit of Aconcagua. The only way to get him down would have been to immobilize him in a sleeping bag, make a cradle of ropes and pads, and use a lot of manpower to try to slide and lower the victim thousands of feet down snow slopes. Judging from the video, that may have been just what the rescuers were trying to do."
An open letter composed by anonymous mountain guides who work on Aconcagua was published Sunday in the Argentine newspapers Los Andes, La Nacion and Diario de Mendoza had this to say concerning the tactics used by the rescuers: "People have said that they treated Campanini 'like a dog.' In extreme situations, rescuers do whatever is possible in the time they have and if it is necessary to drag someone with a rope, they'll do it. If there isn't a stretcher, they will improvise." The open letter also commented on the way the video had been circulated in the media calling it "yellow journalism." Roberts agreed and added that the Internet had put a dark spin on the controversy. "I think the most disturbing part of the controversy is how this video has become a YouTube sensation," he said. "Once again, we are seeing a macabre fascination among many non-climbers with what it's like to die on a high mountain. It's like people sending each other the video of Daniel Pearl being beheaded."
- Nat Geo Expeditions