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  Everest 2006 Team No Limits: Dr. Larry Rigsby decides to go home ...


On Friday, the 28th of April, I was excited to be headed back up the mountain. I left base camp at 6:30 AM. It was cold and windy. I started climbing thru the Icefall with Doug and Will Cross. I could tell early on that my breathing was not as good as usual. I decided to slow down my pace and let the two of them go ahead. I met my teammate, Matt Tredway, coming down the Icefall. Matt had been at Camp II for two nights and was headed back to base camp for a well deserved rest.

About 2/3 of the way up the Icefall, "I hit the wall." My breathing became very labored. I would climb a short section and gasp for air, gasp for air. I considered turning around at this point. I thought if I could take a break and drink more fluids, I would be all right. This was not so and I continued to have problems. Fortunately, one of our Sherpas, Mingma Sherpa, had come up behind me - he was headed to Camp I. Mingma knew something was wrong and would not leave me.

I knew I was holding Mingma back and told him several times to go ahead - but he refused. When I finally got to the top of the Icefall, I took another break. I still remained short of breath. As we climbed out along the Western Cum, I felt extremely weak and dizzy. I subsequently had to lie down in the snow. I doubted I could make it to Camp I and I truly felt like, possibly the end had come. Mingma apparently sensed the same. He took my backpack in addition to his heavy load. He made me keep moving. We would go three to four steps and then I would have to pause to breath. I had the sense that Mingma was heading me like a lazy yak. He would make the sounds of a yak driver on occasion.

We finally reached Camp I. My team mate, Doug Tumminello, was waving us down. He was concerned, especially since he had expected me to arrive four to five hours earlier.  I tried to lay down in the tent, however, I could not. I had to sit, propped up, in order to breath. Doug and Mingma nursed me for the next several hours and my breathing improved significantly.

Doug contacted base camp by radio and discussed the situation with our base camp manager, Roger Coffey, and Apa Sherpa, our Sirdar. They contacted other teams and IMG provided oxygen and offered their support. I continued to improve over the next several hours and was able to get some rest . . . eventually. The rest of the night was uneventful.

The next morning, Apa Sherpa insisted that I descend. I did not think I had the strength to do this. Apa arranged for Mingma Sherpa and Ang Passang to accompany me. I felt better as I got moving and descended to a lower altitude. Before I left, I took a long look at the Lhotse Face and the South Col. They looked so close but I knew that they were impossible for me. I also knew that my climb was over. I have always had a fascination with the South Col - I even named my dog Col.

I finally made it down the Icefall and was so relieved to see our tents and team mates. Due to some health problems encountered in December and a subsequent diagnosis of coronary artery disease, It was questioned whether I should climb. Coming to terms with this diagnosis was very difficult as was making a decision on whether are not to continue on with this expedition. This climb had been a long term dream and we had been planning the details of this journey for well over two years. I felt that I would have life long regrets if I did not give this expedition my best shot. I am glad I made this decision. I gave the mountain my best.

I received so much more than I gave. Just to be associated with my wonderful team mates was worth it. I have learned so much from all of them, and will carry this experience with me throughout the rest of my life. 

I feel a real brotherhood with the Sherpas. They are a wonderful, gentle, and honorable people. I am so grateful to Mingma Sherpa. We still mourn for the death of our Sherpas, Dawa Temba and Lhakpa Tseri, who were both killed in the Icefall. Mingma was also injured as well as Passang Nuru. Passang was temporarily buried in ice and snow, however, he was able to free himself. On my trek out, I plan to trek to the village of Thame, home to Apa as well as most of our other Sherpas. There has to be something special about this village to produce such remarkable men.

Dr. Rigsby will spend three nights in the village of Thame on his trek to Lukla. 

Everest 2006:  Team No Limits Dispatches



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