John Delaney passes away

He was 42, climbing Mount Everest (more here), and he was best known for his role in running  He was also an MR reader and sometimes he wrote to me.  He will be missed.

The very sad pointer is from Chris F. Masse.


He probably shouldn't have changed the rules after the fact on the June 2009 swine flu bet.

Oops, I forgot that I'm supposed to wait a little longer before criticizing the dead. Sorry

"He was a generous, loving guy - the family came first for him."
Then why was he out mountain climbing while his wife was giving birth? Creep

I see I wasn't the only one to notice that incongruity in the story.

I came in here to say that.

He also left a 3-year-old and 2-year-old at home with his 9-month-pregnant wife. While he went off to do something dangerous, expensive and self-indulgent.

RIP, John, but.... not good.

We should have all seen it coming the day he ruled that the (no-longer-updating) CDC numbers would be used to resolve the June 2009 swine flu bet, rather than the "most reliable media sources" as specified in the contract.

Reckless, reckless, reckless .... wreck!

Climbing Everest with young children and a pregnant wife? What an inglorious death

Changing shitty diapers is more glorious than climbing 29,000 ft? Gimme a break!

I do see the need to signal that we feel this was tragic - but, is this really tragic? Rich, intelligent people choosing to climb where so many perish? No, children who are born with HIV and die of starvation before the age of 4, that is tragic.

Come on, give him a break. I have seen "tragic" used for lawn mower accidents. Surely this counts.

Even if this was due to his poor decision, it is still a tragedy for his family.

I read a piece about a year ago (by, I think, George Loewenstein, a kind of cognitive economist at Carnegie Mellon, who incidentally is also Freud's grandson) about risk-takers like mountain-climbers. They vehemently deny that they are motivated by ANYTHING other than the purest of sporting and adventuring motives, but according to Loewenstein, that turns out to be wrong.

I know it is churlish to speak ill of the dead, and I am sad for his family, especially his wife who must now raise three very young children on her own ... but there's something that just doesn't hang together when these sentences (that summarize Mr. Delaney's life pretty accurately) are combined: "he lived for his family, whom he loved etc etc" and "he was passionate about a sport/activity that takes place in an area known as the 'death zone'". It seems to me that he put his athletic pursuits way ahead of his family.

So what does Lowenstein say is their real motivation?

Ego, and self-esteem. If I recall correctly. The book's at the office. Basically, extreme sports and extreme mountaineering, etc., is for high achieving risk takers, who generally place their own subjective experiences (i.e., pleasure at achieving their goals) at the top of their list of priorities.

High altitude mountaineering is the most dangerous of all sports (if you want to call it that). And I agree that taking that kind of risk when you have children and a pregnant wife really is irresponsible. The mountain would still have been there twenty years from now.

He probably had Life Insurance being a numbers guy. Hopefully his widow's next husband will choose Golf or Tennis as his main hobby.

..............starting InTrade seems insurance enough to me! What's their latest valuation?

I think the criticism here is too hasty. The two articles are vague about how Delaney died, just that he died from a "medical condition".

Well all of us are going to die from a "medical condition". If it was, for example, a heart attack due to having a bad heart he could have died from the exact same thing in the corridor of the hospital while waiting for his wife to give birth. Which people would have had no hesitation in labeling "tragic", even though it wouldn't have been, no more than if he had died from falling into a crevasse.

I can't judge until I have more details about how he died, but given that the rest of the team seems to have made it down the mountain OK, and some even reached the top, I suspect that the mountain may have not had anything to do with it at all.

Its also a very modern (and very recent, as arose during my lifetime) attitude that a man's place is at his wife's side when she is giving birth, at his children's side the first two years of their life, and so on. I'm not sure its a good attitude. I think the attitude came about because middle class Westerners became affluent enough for a time that men could reliably be expected to do that.

The medical condition will almost certainly be revealed to be a pulmonary or cerebral edema (HAPE or HACE), which are two of the most common killers on Everest.

Cardiac arrest? Why go for the exotic when a simple theory might suffice.

HAPE or HACE is the simple theory for someone at the summit of Everest. Both are relatively common occurrences.

Trolls at MR, eh? How long until every post turns into a race to see who can ape Jimbo from the château and call Tyler "cheap chalupa" first?

John Delaney, RIP. You were a great man. You'll be missed.
Can't believe some of the hate I'm reading here in the comments. Give it up folks. I'm sure John led a more fulfilling life than any of these haters even dream of. Things like climb Mount Everest and founding Intrade. What an amazing man.

Sure enough, he was great at some things. And he led a fulfilling life, a rich and varied life, a successful life. Good on the bloke. But to criticize him for being a risk taker, and for choosing to put his own lifestyle pleasures ahead of his wife and kids, is not to be a hater.

I say this as someone who leaves his own wife and young kids -- with her permission -- for a few days every month to go hiking, road cycling, and mountain biking. But I don't go into one of the most dangerous places in the world for weeks on end. I'll do that when the kids are in college or are out of the house, not when they are toddlers. Achieving my wilderness goals just doesn't matter that much more than my family...

"Its also a very modern (and very recent, as arose during my lifetime) attitude that a man’s place is at his wife’s side when she is giving birth..": indeed, and it's rather a silly one. His place is looking after the other children while his wife is busy dropping the new one.

I’m sure John led a more fulfilling life than any of these haters even dream of.

And now his wife has the rest of her life to tell his three small kids just how personally fulfilled he was, and why his personal fulfillment was of such cosmic importance that it necessitated him buggering off when he did to taunt death on Everest. What a staggeringly selfish ass.

Didn't know this guy, but it's probably one of the best ways to pass away.

I wonder if ranting online about others' selfishness instead of helping someone else doesn't count as selfishness. Talk about beam in the eye.

Whether or not it does count as selfishness, it's a hell of a lot less selfish than heading up to a mountain with a decent P(death) while your wife is with child. Who cares what some people thought men ought to do, back in the era of no female suffrage and legal inequality?

"it’s a hell of a lot less selfish than heading up to a mountain"
In this case I hold "selfish asshole" in higher regard than you. Bashing others' achievement and passion because you think he ought to do something else takes no real effort or willpower.

His wife was married to him during all those years he spent climbing mountains. If she didn't like chances she had enough time to file for divorce or at least have second thoughts about pregnancy. Also I'm pretty sure that hospital staff will provide all required care and assistance even if the father is not around to stick a camcorder where it doesn't belong.

But the choice wasn't between 'the best way' and a 'bad way' to pass away. The choice was being achieving his own, personal athletic / wilderness goals, and being a supporting, devoted father. I'm not saying he didn't love his family, but when you leave 'em to do something unnecessary (or 'aesthetic') -- i.e., he wasn't going to war, for example -- your actions speak for themselves.

"The choice was being achieving his own, personal athletic / wilderness goals, and being a supporting, devoted father."
So, being supporting, devoted father and husband for N years doesn't count unless you die in a hospital's reception ward?
Judging someone on a basis of a single action without knowing full context is just not a good idea.
Again, Delaney was an experienced climber, it wasn't his first year and his wife should've known about risks involved and had enough time to file for a divorce or at least reconsider having a child.

"I’m not saying he didn’t love his family, but when you leave ‘em to do something unnecessary (or ‘aesthetic’) — i.e., he wasn’t going to war, for example — your actions speak for themselves."
Using "I'm not saying he didn't" and "actions speak for themselves" in a single sentence looks weird. Either say it or you don't.

Anyway, I can't say I know a lot of mountaineers, but my family member who happened to climb several lower mountains and in USSR (and knew people who went higher) seriously doubts that anyone having enough passion and dedication to climb the Everest even once would call such expedition "unnecessary" or "aesthetic".

Sorry, perhaps I wasn't clear. I meant it wasn't necessary in the sense of compelled by something other than his own desires or make-up. I.e., it's not like he had to go for work's sake (as a photographer say) or that he had to go the way soldiers must occasionally go to war zones. I was using aesthetic in the Nietzschean sense: a motive that is internal to an individual's life and that makes him or her sacrifice for its fulfilment, therefore akin to a passion.

Anyhow, you make some good points, esp. re: his wife. Of course she knew the risks. One wonders if he went with her blessing, or whether she gritted her teeth and said "go ahead, live your dreams, and I'll raise the kids on my own should something happen to you."

Incidentally, there's a discussion in philosophy about Gauguin. Was he justified in leaving his family (in an era of no welfare-ish support for them), going to Tahiti to paint in order to fulfill a longstanding goal? Some say, no, never, it was selfish. Some say, yes, but only IF he succeeded in creating great works of art. The problem is: how could he know in advance that the work he would go on to produce in Tahiti would be brilliant and compelling, and a significant contribution to culture/art, and therefore capable of justifying his decision...

Gauguin could at least say that he left a legacy to humankind: his works of art... And that his 'sacrifice' of the integrity of his family was worth it because of the outcome. Not sure I buy that, but it is a claim one could make.

Interestingly, his twitter feed seems to have changed titles to "intrade news"

His widow speaks out:


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