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 American climber dies on Everest: Chris O'Brien's recollections regarding the passing of his brother Mike.


Here is a photo of camp 2 inside the western cwm at 6450 meters, with our dining tent, cook tent, where Pemba Sherpa, our high altitude cook prepares meals, and sleeping tents.

 

Dear EverestNews.com, Chris O'Brien's recollections regarding the passing of his brother Mike. Statement given at 11:00 am, 3 May, 2005, Everest basecamp 5300 meters.

 

The day started in camp 2 at 6450 meters. Mike called his girlfriend on the satellite phone. Mike seemed very happy to have been able to find her at home and it sounded like a good conversation. We were debating whether to go down to basecamp or whether to stay in camp 2 and try to walk up to camp 3 and spend the night before going down to basecamp for a rest. We decided to descend to basecamp with the team, because it didn't seem like camp 3 would

be ready for a while. We walked down with Dan, Arnold and Pemba. We reached camp 1 (5950 meters), and stored our sleeping bags in camp 1, so the next time we came up to camp 1, we could sleep there, so we would not have to walk all the way to camp 2.

 

5 of us left camp 1 (Pemba, Dan, Arnold, me, and Mike). We descended through the western cwm, going down the large ladders into the icefall. We felt strong and well acclimatized. The weather was very hot, and the snow was sticking to the bottom of our crampons. We were separated into two groups by a few 100 meters. The first group was Dan, Arnold, and Pemba, and the second was me and Mike. As we were going down, Mike and I were separated by a just a few meters. As me and Mike were going down through the glacier, we rested occasionally, and were conversing together. We talked about the great food we would soon be eating in basecamp, and about the general plan and schedule for the rest of the climb. I recall Mike saying that he was hungry, because he did not eat any breakfast or lunch. I did not eat any breakfast that day either.

 

I did not see Mike stumble at any time during our descent, before the accident, and Mike seemed to be as strong as any other day. Mike did not seem to be distracted or worried about anything that morning.

 

As me and Mike descended we were clipped to the ropes most of the time. Sometimes there were flat areas where the rope was very short and we would not clip to the rope and just go on to the next anchor and clip there. Mike was much more fastidious than me about clipping the rope. I would sometimes just hang on to the rope with my hand, and not be clipped to it with my carabiner, but Mike would actually clip his carabiner to the rope.

 

I went down a 3 meter ladder tilting downward, into a crevasse with a solid bottom, and then climbed out of the crevasse on 50 degree snow for about three meters, reaching the surface of the glacier. At this point Mike was just getting onto the down tilting ladder. I walked along the glacier surface, and then climbed down a steep 5-6 meter ice step, and then sat down to wait for Mike. Then, 5 minutes (or less) later, Blair, who had been walking behind Mike and I, appeared above me, leaning over the ice step, and Blair said "Your brother has fallen into a crevasse." The time was approximately 1:45 pm.

 

At first, I ran back up hill to see what was going on. Blair stopped me, to tell him to go and signal Dan and Arnold.  I ran down and signaled them, got their attention, then climbed back up the ice step and went over to where Blair was standing at the edge of a crevasse. The trail was traversing across a snow slope. About 20 feet below the trail there was a large crevasse, about 40 feet wide and about 40 feet deep. I saw Mike lying on the snow at the bottom of the crevasse. Mike was laying on his back. I called down to Mike: "Are you alright?". Mike had a sore throat from the dry air (many of our team members did), so he said in his hoarse voice: "What happened? How high are we? " I said: "Don't worry, Dan and Arnold are coming, we will get some Sherpas, and we will get you out of there"

 

Blair cut the rope that was fixed along side the trail, and rappelled into the crevasse. I talked to Mike further, and Mike said "I think I broke my leg". Blair gave Mike water, and then Dan, Arnold and Pemba appeared over the top. Arnold and Pemba began running down to basecamp to get help and supplies, like oxygen, medicine, ropes, and Sherpas.

 

I rappelled down the fixed line that Blair had cut and checked over Mike. Mike knew what day and time it was and where he was. He was a little fuzzy about how he got to the bottom of the crevasse. Mike seemed to have a few broken ribs on his left side. He seemed to have a tender left hip and a possible fracture of the left upper leg. His spinal cord seemed to be intact because he could move all of his limbs and his head.

 

Blair and I took off Mike's crampons and elevated his left leg. We monitored his breathing and pulse, which seemed to be within the normal range.

 

Dan stayed on top of the crevasse, and maintained radio contact with basecamp and the rescuers coming up through the icefall.

 

Mike was having trouble breathing. He had pain from the broken ribs and maybe internal injury.

 

Mike was communicative. He asked about oxygen and Sherpas. He said "There goes our years of planning for the climb". He continued asking about the Sherpas, and he started asking about oxygen. He was having increasing difficulty breathing.

 

I wasn't sure if the difficult breathing was due to the ribs or internal

injury. I tried to keep Mike from falling asleep. Mike started saying things like: "I am very tired, and its difficult to breath". I was shaking Mike, and shaking Mike's head, and poking Mike in the chest. I said: "Mike, you need to stay awake, you need to breath."

 

Its hard for me to recall the passage of time. I was all-consumed with trying to save my brother.

 

Mike stopped breathing, he became unresponsive. Blair started CPR on Mike's chest, and I began rescue breathing. We continued CPR and rescue breathing. During the CPR, we were shouting at Mike, to wake up and try to stay alive. We tried to clean out Mike's mouth and throat to make sure the air was getting in. We tried to clean out his airway numerous times, and bloody liquid came out. Blair and I continued trying to save Mike, and pumping his chest and blowing air into his nose and mouth for a long time.

 

Finally the oxygen arrived, carried from basecamp by the Sherpas. Blair and I put the oxygen on Mike at a high rate of flow. Mike did not start breathing. We tried more CPR and rescue breathing supplemented by the oxygen. Mike would not respond. It was around 4:30.

 

Was Mike in pain when he died? At the moment Mike died, he was certainly feeling some pain from his ribs, and difficulty breathing, but Mike was in a deep state of shock and death seemed to come very suddenly and Mike could not know that he was dying. Mike's breathing seemed to slow over a period of minutes to nothing, and then stop. That's when Blair and I started rescue breathing and CPR.

 

We have decided not to publish this picture for now. EverestNews.com

Chris and Blair trying to save Mike in the bottom of the crevasse.

 

Blair climbed out of the crevasse, I stayed. I sat there feeling bad. I did not want to leave. I knew Mike was very strong, and hoped Mike would come back to life.

 

I eventually climbed out of the crevasse, and walked back to basecamp in the dark with some Sherpas.

 

Since I have been back in basecamp I have been feeling very numb and want to go home. I am waiting for Mike's body to be brought down so we can bring Mike home to Oswego.

Dispatches

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