As we read reports and articles, we note several commercial teams (reports who
were not carried on EverestNews.com) did not report at all rescues on their
teams and in many cases did not even report climbers leaving the expeditions.
Heavy heavy sugar coated reports, buyer beware!
We also have seen several reports on the news wires where
'climbers" state that rescues never have occurred up high on Everest. Climbers
stating that it is impossible. Just false. Hard to say if these
statements are due to lack of knowledge or just more sugar....
Anyway, for those of you new to Everest, several climbers
has been left for dead over the years, with the worse case in our opinion
being "Fran" in 1998. Several rescues have occurred up high. Here is one from
the past for you where a guide and a client from Brice's team was rescued by
others.... Now with all reports and climbers, this is only one view of what
happened on that day...
Today (May 24, 2001) was one
of the most frustrating, scary, nerve wracking and inspirational days I can
remember for a long time. In many ways it epitomized everything that is
best and worst about mountaineering. I have been in the middle of my share
of screw-ups over the years, some of them with tragic endings. Today I'm
happy to report we were on the helping end of the equation. Hopefully if we
ever need assistance, this deposit in the Karma Bank will pay off!
Yesterday our team of Dave
Hahn, Andy Politz, Tap Richards, and Jason Tanguay, accompanied by Phu Nuru
and Phu Dorge, had pushed from Camp 5 to Camp 6 on the North Ridge of
Everest via the REAL North Ridge...only the second ascent since 1938 (two of
our climbers, Brent Okita and Jake Norton had made the first climb of this
classic route several weeks ago. After re-discovering the 1924 Camp 6 and
doing some more exploration and video work there, they pushed into Camp 6 to
get ready for the summit ascent today. Everyone was psyched, strong, and
hoping to be on top by about 7am!!
The problems started when one
of Russell Brice's guides woke the climbers up at 8:30 pm and told them that
one of their guides and one of their clients were bivouacking at the
Third Step (8700m). Apparently the client had been overcome with
cerebral edema and was unable to continue. The guide had elected to spend
the night with him. They were in a dire situation and needed help. There
had only once before (post monsoon 1988 by the Spanish, from the South
Summit, 8750m) been a rescue higher than this on Everest, and never from
above the Second Step on the North Ridge.
Five of our team (Dave, Tap,
Jason, Phu Nuru, Phu Dorge) left Camp 6 at about 12:30am. Andy stayed at
Camp 6, his plan to spend the day searching some more. By dawn (4:30am) the
climbers were at the mushroom rock (Camp 7) between the First and Second
Steps. There they were surprised to run into three Russian climbers,
huddled together in an open bivouac without oxygen (they had run out many
hours before). One of them could stand up, but the other two were so messed
up they could barely move. It was clear to our climbers that they had to do
something. The first call was to Andy Politz at Camp 6, to get him ready to
go up and help. He would leave a bit later with more oxygen. Then the team
had to get the Russians on oxygen. Fortunately, our two Sherpas were each
carrying an extra bottle, and the team had a spare regulator and a "T"
fitting. They had to cut the ends of the Russians oxygen hoses to
accommodate the "T", which was then plugged into one of our American
cylinders and regulators. At 5 liters per minute the two sickest
climbers would have about 6 hours of O2 to share. Then each climber was
given 8mg of dexamethasome. After spending an hour with the Russians,
during which time the sun came up, the Russians began to move around a bit
and look better. The team decided to take Phu Nuru's oxygen bottle, mask
and regulator with them and send Phu Nuru down. Off he went, as the
Russians started to get ready to go down also. Then our climbers started
across the Traverse to the Second Step.
Our team cruised up the Second
Step and reached the Third Step, where the next two persons were bivouacked,
by 6:50am. There, they took Phu Dorge's oxygen set, and set him down
without any (both Phu Nuru and Phu Dorge made it down OK). The idea was to
give Phu Dorge's oxygen to one of the stricken climbers and Phu Nuru's to
the other...and hopefully be able to continue themselves to the summit.
After a few minutes at the site, however, it became immediately obvious that
neither of these climbers were going anywhere without major help. It was
obvious that going to the summit, only an hour away, was out of the question
for our team. Neither sick climber could even stand up. Both were partially
blind from cerebral edema. Both had some frostbite. Walking was
impossible. Again, our team administered oxygen and dexamethasome.
After an hour, the two sick
men could barely stand up with help. Trying to get them to walk was
agonizing. It took fully another hour to go 50 yards down the ridge. Jason
and Tap were with the guide, Dave with the client, all pulling and
dragging. The first party of three reached the top of the Second Step at
10am, and took over an hour to lower the sick man down. Dave and the sick
client reached the top of the Second Step at 11:15 and took another hour to
lower down. It took both groups another hour from the bottom of the Step to
reach the mushroom rock, where they met Andy Politz, who arrived
with another oxygen bottle. Along the Traverse they were met by Phurba, one
of Russell's Sherpa's who also came up with another oxygen bottle, and
helped Dave and the client across the steep and dangerous Traverse. From
the mushroom rock, it took until 2pm for the group to reach the First Step.
Along the way they were met by Lobsang, another of Russell's Sherpas, who
brought more oxygen and a strong set of arms for hauling and dragging.
Another lower down brought
everyone off the First Step. Then the long walk across the ridge to the
Yellow Band gullies. Along the way both of the patients started to do
better and were able to walk. The oxygen and dex were kicking in! Two more
of Russell's Sherpas showed up with more oxygen and manpower.
Then tragedy. At the top of
the gully the rescue team they came across one of the Russian climbers who
had collapsed. Andy administered more dex, but the man died in his arms.
The other Russians made in back to Camp 6 OK, but this one guy, who had been
in the worse shape of the three, had apparently gone over the line. About
the same time we received a radio call from the Australian group, who said
that his tent partner had just died suddenly at Camp 5. What a day!
Eventually, everyone made it
back to camp. I was super proud of what Dave, Andy, Tap, and Jason had
accomplished. They put their personal goals on the back burner and saved
four out of five people, with virtually no assistance. I was also bummed
that they didn't get to make the top, knowing how hard they had worked. I
guess that's just the way it goes here...if you don't like the uncertainty,
you shouldn't be here......
Eric Simonson IMG North
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