Below is an excerpt from a book entitled, “Loyalty, The Vexing Virtue” by Eric Felten:
In August of 1953, Eight American climbers had been trying to scale the perilous Himalayan peak K2 when on of them Art Gilkey, developed a blood clot in his leg. Unless they get him down to the bottom quickly he was going to die. Saving this incapacitated climber meant terrible risks for the other climbers. The conditions of this particular climb were treacherous for skilled climbers carrying nothing, but their own pack. As they worked there way down one man, whose frostbitten fingers were too stiff to maintain his grip, slipped. He seemed to cartwheel down the slick 45-degree slope, his gloves flying off his hands, his shredded pack tearing loose. Until he was over the cliff and gone. That would have been the end of this unluck
y climber had it not been for nylon rope that connected him to the men above — A rope that nearly killed all of them. As the first man plummeted, he pulled another climber over with him. The weight of those two yanked a third, fourth, and fifth off the side of the mountain, sending them careening in a mad jumble down the icy slope.
Up above holding on to Gilkey, was Schoening. His end of the rope was tied to an ice axe jammed behind a boulder. As those men were sliding off that mountain and that nylon line whipping past Schoening – He could have let the ice axe bear the violent yank that was coming when the rope got tight. It may have even held.But in an instant he got under the rope and wrapped it over his shoulders and under is arms. Anchored his feet, stopping their fall. Without letting go of Gilkey, Schoening bore the weight of all five men, the farthest of whom was 150 feet below. In a blinding snowstorm, he held on until those battered men came to their senses and realized that they werenʼt dead – and scrambled up that line to safety. The technique is known as: Belaying
Some forty-three years later in 1996, journalist Jon Krakauer was one of dozens of tourist paying to make a Himalayan climb, this one up Mount Everest. Not only were they not a team, they barely new each other. Each one of them had paid $65,000 to attempt the summit, and each was focused on his or her personal quest. Krakauer wrote: “I felt disconnected from the climbers around me – emotionally, spiritually, physically – to a degree I hadnʼt experienced on any previous expedition.” He said, “Although we broke as group, we would ascend as individuals, linked to one another by neither rope nor any deep sense of loyalty.”
There have been many theories attempting to explain why eight people died on the mountain that next day – The clouds settling over the summit, the pelting snow, which reduced visibility to just a few feet; a freak weather pattern, climbers were amateurs – but any and all of those causes could have been overcome if they had just stuck together.
Loyalty is more than just a matter of working together, more than just the obvious observation that we can do more together than apart – but itʼs about being reliable. Each of us doing our part for the good of team and church. Itʼs not about us doing what feels good to us. Itʼs about being a team player. Somebody people can count own.