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 American dies on Everest: Blair Falahey's statement from 3 May, 2005, 1140 am, Everest-Lhotse basecamp.


Mike and Chris (foreground) walked up to the Lhotse face one day at 6750 meters to check out the route. The weather was very windy and snowy, and the climbers in the photo are being chased down by spindrift avalanches. Mike and Chris chose to return to camp 2 to wait for better weather, before climbing the face.

 

Dear EverestNews.com, Blair Falahey's statement from 3 May, 2005, 1140 am, Everest-Lhotse basecamp.

 

Blair Falahey, Lhotse expedition Member. Lhotse and Everest are climbed via the same route below camp 4, so the Lhotse and Everest expedition members often climb together lower on the mountain, and share basecamp, plus camps 1, 2 , and 3.

 

We left camp 2, and everyone seemed to be in pretty good spirits.  Mike spoke with his girlfriend via satellite telephone and he seemed to be pretty happy. Then we headed down to Camp 1. When we arrived there was a bit of a snowstorm. I got into a tent to have a drink and a thirty minute rest.

 

The group of Dan, Chris, Mike, Arnold, and Pemba left Camp 1 towards Base Camp.  However, I decided to stay a little while longer to let the weather clear. After thirty minutes I left the tent for Base Camp in good weather. As I descended the long ladders I saw Chris and Mike. They were the last of the group of five headed towards Base Camp. Fifteen minutes later, I had almost caught up with them. As I turned around a corner in the icefall, I saw Mike and Chris sitting and taking a rest about 75 meters ahead of me. When they saw me they got up and started to descend.

 

When I entered the traverse that lead to a vertical ladder Mike was about 20 meters ahead of me. Mike descended the ladder, and then climbed up the 2 meter vertical section.  I then clipped into the rope and backed down the ladder.  I then climbed the same section, and when I got to the top Mike was gone. I recalled thinking "Where's he gone?  He must be moving so quick!".

 

I clipped into the fixed line with my safety and began to traverse. Then I heard a very faint cry for help. At first I thought it was my imagination, and then I heard it again but this time it was more clear. I heard Mike say " help me, I'm down here!" I said, "Where are you?" He replied, "I'm down here." I was past the point where he had fallen, and I looked back and saw the skid-mark in the snow left like a 'snail trail' where he had fallen into the crevasse. With myself still clipped into the safety line I moved over to where I thought he was.  And sure enough there he was.

 

I called out to him and asked, "Are you OK?"  He replied, "I think I've broken my leg."  I knew others were ahead, so I moved away from the edge back to the trail and shouted to Chris to go and get Dan and Arnold, which he did. In the meantime, Mike looked pretty uncomfortable in the way he landed. Because he looked uncomfortable I thought it was imperative that I get down there and assist him in any way I could.

 

I moved over to the fixed line and cut the rope at the anchor. I tied a knot in the end of the rope and abseiled into the crevasse. I made my way over to Mike. I made him comfortable by placing a sleeping mat under his head, and straightened out his leg a bit. I asked if he was ok and if he hurt anywhere. He complained that his leg was hurt and that he had damaged some ribs.  He also asked if it was possible for a chopper to come up here and get him out.  He kept asking "How are they going to get me out of here?"

 

I stayed with him for 5 minutes and then Dan arrived at the top of the crevasse. Chris then entered the crevasse. Once Chris was in the crevasse we did our best to make him comfortable. We put a hat on him, sunglasses and sun cream. We moved the sleeping mat underneath of him and put a rucksack under his head. Then Chris proceeded to do an examination. He asked him where he had pain. Mike said, "My leg is hurt, but it's numb now. I have pain in my ribs on the left side." And then Mike asked, "How am I going to get out of here?" We told him "It's OK, the Sherpas and rescue team are on the way." We stayed and talked with him and gave him water and tried to keep him comfortable while we waited for assistance to arrive.

 

He kept asking "How long for oxygen to arrive. It's hard to breathe."  We told him "30 minutes."  His situation was stable for about thirty minutes. He was talking and alert and responsive, but seemed increasingly tired. In the space of a couple of minutes his health rapidly deteriorated. When I removed the sunglasses to see his eyes, they were open but rolled back. We started CPR.

 

Chris was doing the breathing and I was alternately doing the heart massage. Within the first minute we got a response.  His hand moved and his body moved.  We continued the CPR, but got no further response.  We continued CPR for a long time, but I have no idea how long it was.  We continued CPR until assistance and oxygen arrived.  Once oxygen arrived we administered oxygen at a rate of 4 liters per minute and I continued the heart massage.  We continued this for 15 to 20 minutes.  During this time there was no response from Mike.  Finally, I said to Chris, "I think he's gone.  I'm sorry."  I stopped the heart massage, but Chris continued with the oxygen over the face.

 

Once I determined that Mike had died, I started to pack everything away. Dan hauled the gear out of the crevasse. I climbed out of the crevasse and had a short break and drink of tea. Then I descended to Base Camp with Lakpa Sherpa. I stepped of the icefall long after dark.

 

I'm truly sorry about what happened. Even though I only knew Mike for a short time, I class Mike as a friend.  He was a great guy. I wish I could have done more to save him.  My deepest sympathies to him and his family. 

Dispatches

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