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Volume 2, Number 2

June 2006

We all have our Everests…

Jake Norton will help you climb yours.



...to another issue of the MountainWorld Productions E-Newsletter!

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In this issue:

  1. Quote of the Month

  2.  The Ethics of Everest...

  3. In Memoriam: Ang Phinjo Sherpa

  4. Photo Tip of the Month:
    The Rule of Thirds

  5. Jake gains membership in NSA!

  6. Articles, News, & Happenings...

  7.  Upcoming Events & Travel…

  8. Contact Information

Quote of the Month


Cowardice asks the question: Is it safe?
Expediency asks the question: Is it politic?
Vanity asks the question: Is it popular?
But conscience asks the question: Is it right?
And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, not politic, nor popular, but one must take it because it is right.

- Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Ethics of Everest...

Another Everest season has just come to completion. As usual, it was filled with stories of success and failure, grand achievement and broken records. But, with all the fantastic news coming from the mountain this spring - including Apa Sherpa logging an incredible 16th (yes, SIXTEENTH!) summit -  there were disheartening signs of the changing ethical landscape on the slopes of Everest.


In the following article I would like to share with you some of my thoughts about ethics and priorities on the slopes of Everest. I will begin the following with the caveat that I was not on Everest this spring, and thus speak from afar, from a perspective of 20/20 hindsight. But, having been on the mountain 5 times, I feel that even from this perspective I have some insights into the situation.


On the evening of May 14 and the morning of the 15th, David Sharp, a 34 year old British climber, lay dying just below the First Step on the Northeast Ridge route. Reports indicate that roughly 40 people walked past him en route to and from the summit. No one stopped to lend the man a hand. No one was willing to sacrifice their summit, their dream, to help a fellow human being.


Perhaps there was no possibility of rescue. Perhaps David would have died regardless of assistance from other climbers. Either way, the actions on the mountain this spring beg the question: How much is the summit of Everest worth? Do mountainous goals legitimize the sacrifice of our humanity and compassion?


Having had the good fortune to stand on top of the world twice, I can say with certainty to anyone caught in a similar situation in the future: The summit is not worth the sacrifice of one's humanity. Yes, reaching the top is a wonderful experience. But, in the end, the summit is merely a small patch of snow sitting upon a big hunk of rock...and thus is not material for sacrificing humanity.

On the morning of May 7, 2001, my teammates John Race, Tap Richards and I had just begun our summit bids on what was my second expedition to the mountain. En route to Advanced Basecamp, we encountered Tibetan yak herders carrying two injured Chinese glaciologists down the mountain. Both men were suffering from advanced pulmonary and cerebral edema; if left unaided, they would soon die. Our decision was simple: We aborted our summit bid and began the arduous task of carrying two men down the Rongbuk Glacier. I blew out my knee in the rescue, ending my expedition with a resonant POP...but both Mr. Gao and Mr. Li lived to see their families again.


Three weeks later, my teammates were going for the summit via the NE Ridge. During the course of their summit bid, they ended up abandoning their summit hopes to rescue 5 people - 3 Siberians, one American, and one Guatemalan. The final rescue took place a mere 45 minutes from the top. Did they hesitate? Not a bit. Again, the tiny patch of snow lying at 29,035 feet is just that...a patch of snow. It will be there next year, and the year after that. And, in the end, standing on it does not change one's life. Reaching out to change the lives of others - no matter how short those lives may last - does.


In his famous book Zen & The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig writes: To live only for some future goal is shallow. It's the sides of the mountain which sustain life, not the top. Here's where things grow. I would add to Pirsig's observations that it is on the sides of the mountain where we grow, not on the top. And, there are times when that growth comes from sacrificing our own goals, dreams, and ambitions to reach out and assist others.


We must have goals in our lives, and we must aim for those goals, go after them with everything that we have and everything that we are. But, the important part of our goals is not reaching the end mark, crossing the finish line, but rather the experiences on the sides of our mountains. And, again, sometimes we must let go of Machiavellian ambitions, sacrificing our ambition so that we don't sacrifice our humanity, echoing the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.: there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, not politic, nor popular, but one must take it because it is right.


2006 Jake Norton/MountainWorld Productions. All Rights Reserved.



In Memoriam: Ang Phinjo Sherpa

On the morning of April 21st, Ang Phinjo Sherpa was killed by an ice collapse in the Khumbu Icefall on Everest. Also killed in the same collapse were Sherpas Lhakpa Tseri and Dawa Temba.


I first met Ang Phinjo in 1997 on my first expedition to an 8000m peak. I was guiding on Cho Oyu that year, and Phinjo was one of our high-altitude climbing Sherpa. I was immediately taken by Phinjo, especially by his gracious, welcoming smile, indefatigable good humor, deep spirituality, and strong work ethic.


We had a great time on Cho Oyu that autumn, and on September 29th we reached the summit. I remember Phinjo pointing down valley from the summit, a huge smile arcing from ear to ear, saying proudly: There is my village. There is Phortse!


Ang Phinjo had been on countless 8000m peak expeditions at that time; he had worked as a climbing Sherpa since 1973. Amazingly, though, this was only the second time he had stood on the summit of one of those peaks. As my friend Dave Hahn wrote on GreatOutdoors.com: [Phinjo] was very capable, but he'd never asserted himself as someone deserving of a summit opportunity.


Humble, caring, gracious...those are but a few of the adjectives that describe Ang Phinjo Sherpa. He was 50 years old this spring, and working hard on his 49th 8000 meter peak expedition. Ang Phinjo's death leaves behind his wife and two children, age 12 and 14.


Eric Simonson and International Mountain Guides has established a fund to help take care of Ang Phinjo's family. If you would like to make a donation, funds are being accepted by AFFIMER (American Foundation for International Mountaineering Exploration and Research, www.affimer.org), of which Eric Simonson is a founder. Please make checks payable to AFFIRMER and send to:


AFFIMER (Sherpa Support)
P.O. Box 155
Ashford, WA 98304

If you have ever spent time in the Himalaya, you know how wonderful and hard working the Nepali people are. Here is an opportunity to say thank you, to give something back to a family in need, even if you did not have the opportunity to meet and work with Ang Phinjo.


Please feel free to contact me with any questions, and thank you for your support!

Photo Tip of the Month...

Rule of Thirds

When composing images, we tend to put our subject right smack in the middle of our image. Subconsciously, we figure that the subject is, well, the subject, and thus it should take a prominent position - i.e. the center - in the image.

While this works in certain scenarios, namely portraits and headshots, we often create a strong effect by making sure the subject is not dead center in the frame.

Most photographers use what we call the Rule of Thirds. In a nutshell, you mentally divide your frame into thirds, and make sure your subject is on either the left or right third for a horizontal image, or the top or bottom third for a vertical.

By dividing up the image and keeping our subject to one side or the other, we often create energy and movement in the image as well as a more dynamic and engaging composition.

So, next time you are at a family function, out in the mountains, or taking pictures on your next vacation, try out the Rule of Thirds...your photos will thank you!

Jake Gains Membership in NSA!

Jake just became an official member of the National Speaker's Association (www.nsaspeaker.com). To gain membership, a speaker has to meet a rigorous set of criteria demonstrating his or her professionalism, dedication, and success in the field of speaking.

A coveted designation in the speaking industry, Jake is honored to be a member of NSA and to continue providing inspiration and professionalism to his clients.

See Jake's profile on the NSA website...


Articles, News, & Happenings

  • Jobing.com, an online job search and recruiting website, liked Jake's Climb Your Everest article from the last newsletter so much that they asked permission to run it on their website. Read it online now!

  • Jake was also featured in an article in the inaugural edition of Wellness Living magazine and The Business of Wellness program. Click here to read the article in PDF!

  • Jake's stunning image of King Penguins bickering on the shores of South Georgia Island was a finalist in the 2006 Teva Mountain Games photo competition.

  • Jake was honored to be the commencement speaker for The Colorado Springs School on June 2, 2006. His commencement speech, designed to send the seniors off with motivation to pursue their dreams in life, is available online.

  • We have redesigned the image database portion of our website to make it more streamlined and effective. Limited edition and standard edition fine art prints, autographed books, screensavers, posters, and other items are still available to purchase at the MountainWorld Productions store. The remainder of our online stock collection, featuring images by Jake Norton taken on his adventures around the world, are now contained in a fully searchable stock database.

  • Jake's images are on display at the Penrose Carnegie Library Gallery in Colorado Springs through the end of June. Stop by and see Jake's images from around the world!

Upcoming Events & Travel…


I am often on the road, traveling to speaking engagements, working as a photographer on location, or leading worldwide expeditions for International Mountain Guides.  

  • This autumn, I will lead a group of climbers up Gurla Mandhata (AKA Naimona'nyi, 7728 meters), a remote peak in West Tibet. This will be an incredible journey, complete with a circumambulation of sacred Mount Kailash. I hope to send dispatches and images from the mountain to my website; stay tuned for details!

  • On Saturday, June 10, at 2:00 PM, I will present my Lost on Everest presentation to teens at the Penrose Library in Colorado Springs as part of their summer reading program. The event is open to the public, so please drop by if you are interested.

  • As part of my work as a Board Member for Porters' Progress, I will arrange a presentation this summer in Golden as well as a fundraising hike in the mountains to raise money for Porters' Progress programs and also awareness about the situation of Nepali mountain porters. Stay tuned for more information coming by email soon!

Contact Information…


Jake Norton is a professional speaker, photographer, climber, and guide from Colorado. He delivers high-impact, multi-media motivational presentations to audiences worldwide, inspiring them to set lofty goals in life and giving them the tools to reach them.

Please forward this newsletter to other people who might find it helpful.

Have a question about Jake Norton or MountainWorld Productions? Please contact us at:

Jake Norton
MountainWorld Productions

American Mountaineering Center
710 Tenth Street
Golden, CO  80401

P: 303.902.7475
F: 303.496.0175

Email: info@mountainworldproductions.com

All text, formatting, code, images, and items on this website are
2005 Jake Norton/MountainWorld Productions. All Rights Reserved.

MountainWorld News: Inspiration from Everest and beyond by Speaker, Climber, and Photographer Jake Norton