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  George Dijmarescu Everest 2007 The Story : Part 3


{DAVID SHARP STORY}

This was a description from a Mexican climber who was on Everest in 2004.

He was rescued down by two Sherpa and survived only with minor frostbites to his fingers. His story ended in a positive way but others weren’t so lucky.

Much speculation exists about the whereabouts and fate of David Sharp, but to this day no one truly knows what happened to climber David Sharp during his journey to the top of Everest in 2006. Criticism abounds of the many climbers who allegedly passed him on the way to and from the summit. I briefly met David and spent some evenings watching DVDs at ABC.

It struck me that David was proud of “not taking any piece of technology” with him: he had no radio, no sat phone, no Internet, no Sherpa.

Although David’s style of climbing was premeditated, he at least planned his climb in Kathmandu rather than on the oxygen starved slopes of Everest. He wasn’t new to Everest and after losing some toes in the previous attempt he was back for a third try.

In my opinion, applying sea level ethics in the death zone is a mistake, primarily if you are responsible for your own survival. If you think you are strong and skillful enough, then sure, put your life on the line. However, if you are wearing prosthetic legs, no one should dare criticizing you for not helping.

David Sharp chose his own style of climbing…it was a gamble that he lost. He was a fine man and I hate that he lost to Everest…it reminded me that any of us can lose.

I was thinking that I would see his body knowing exactly where he died and I wish I would not have that experience, I wanted to remember him just as I saw him last time on May 11th 2006 when he asked me how my summit went; I wanted to remember him giving me a “thumbs up” at the North Col.

{Back to George – PASANG}

I was still taking pictures at the last camp and Pasang came into view with his Japanese group. They made a brief stop at our tent and I managed to snap a few great close-up shots of him and the summit reflection in his sunglasses.

Pasang Kidar arriving at 8300 m camp in almost total whiteout.

Funashi, the 68 year-old Japanese woman seemed sorely disappointed when Pasang announced to her that her tent was positioned at least 100 yards higher from our position, but she dutifully and tiredly marched on. Ishi was ahead of her and he was wasting no time to reach his camp to end the day’s climb.

Before resting a bit, Ming Kipa and I debated our starting time and we finally decided to ready ourselves early enough such that eight to ten climbers had gone ahead to break a fresh trail as we saw no point in exhausting any strength in trail creation. The sunset that evening came unusually late and I was plagued with not being able to drift off to sleep even with the oxygen at half-minute flow. The purring from my partner’s tent indicated that Ming Kipa, once again, did not have any thoughts overpowering her into wakefulness.

I kept my water bottles close to the sleeping bag in order to prevent them from freezing and to keep myself properly hydrated. I managed to eat the cold chicken meat I had brought from ABC even though just a few pieces would take a long time to digest at this altitude. I also had some yak cheese Nowang brought from his village and I managed to eat a good handful of it. Part of it was frozen but it thawed slowly in my mouth and served as another good source of protein to fuel my body for the task ahead. My last chore was to mix a couple of bottles of ice tea for taste variety and a little sugar boost when needed.

At about 9PM I started to make the necessary preparations for the climb: a new change of socks duct taped to the underwear polypro liner in order to keep them from being sucked down by my oversized boots, gloves, extra gloves, liners, mittens, goggles, sunglasses all ready or handy for the start.

I had also ready few extra memory cards for my camera, but I had several malfunctions during a swap. I was ultimately left with less than ten shots from the previous card and none of the remaining five cards seemed to work. One by one my new toy told me that the cards contained no images and would not record any additional shots.

Ming Kipa was already outside the tent with new bottle and she was asking how long I was going to play with my camera.

I felt and behaved irrationally trying to fix the camera considering that time was precious, but Ming Kipa did not have a camera and I did not want to summit without being able to record the event. I pleaded for more time while trying to be my own Nikon technical support representative. At sea level, an electronics malfunction can be frustrating process, but at 8300 meters in the cold and oxygen-depleted air, this activity takes on a new dimension.

After ten minutes of troubleshooting, I realized that the new cards might need to be formatted, so I set the camera on a formatting task and ended up erasing about one hundred previous shots from one of the cards. Another ten minutes passed and I had then accumulated twenty minutes of oxygen debt to Ming Kipa.

Ming Kipa kept her composure although she had every right to be furious with me.

The climbers well ahead of us, visible as a snake of headlamps, were now inching their way towards the bottom of the wall. Our goal of letting eight to ten climbers ahead of us was now a forethought as we calculated that about thirty climbers were about half an hour ahead of us.

I thought to myself that we would be just fine if only those climbers would keep their distance ahead of us.

A trailing group of climbers tried to get ahead of us just as we began our trek, but we pushed hard and took the main trail just ahead of them and the group appeared no match for our speed. It was a pitch black and moonless night with only the stars shining to illuminate our path as we marched closer to the bottom of the wall.

In less than half an hour we caught up to the snake of thirty climbers who had suddenly frozen in place. We had no choice but to stop as well…five minutes, ten minutes, I started to feel the cold. I only had on a pair of liner gloves under the protection of a windproof gloves.

Experience had taught me to place two pouches of hand warmers in my down jacket pockets and I now called on them to due their chemical magic. I slid my hands in my pockets to keep my fingers toasty and hoped the warmers would last at least four hours even though the directions say they will last for seven.

The first obstacle is nothing more than a twelve-foot rock formation, which can be overcome via a crack and a slight right-hand traverse. Even though the formation is fixed with rope, a climb in the middle of the night can present challenges for some climbers, and tonight proved that true. The delay was frustrating at best and I was now paying the price for not starting earlier.

I kept thinking we would be in for a slow climb if this insignificant rock formation could present such a challenge to the groups ahead. I brushed aside the thought and shifted my attention to devising a plan in order to pass these people and get in the lead. When we finally got the chance to climb the rock formation, my partner and I took less than twenty seconds to be on top..

Ming Kipa and I were then presented with the opportunity to start passing climbers after we got to the ridge. When we got there we started to pass scores of masked and unknown climbers without speaking.

Soon we were just behind the largest group of Indian climbers and only fifteen minutes from the First Step. Ming Kipa was yards ahead of me when she suddenly stopped and started working on a problem with her right boot. I saw that her crampon had come off and was alarmed when she removed her gloves in order to handle the delicate task. I screamed at her for handling the metal with bare fingers,

“What are you doing? Do you want to lose your fingers?”

“Put you gloves back on, NOW! I will help you; put your feet up here on this rock.”

My relatively thin double gloves allowed me to get the crampon back on the boot in less than a minute and I made sure to tighten enough to prevent a subsequent problem. The crampons belonged to my wife Lapka, so I was comforted in the knowledge that they were very reliable pieces of equipment. I made sure the other crampon was also secure and we marched on.

At the bottom of the first step, once again, the climbing snake forced us to an abrupt halt.

Climbers ahead were struggling on the relatively uncomplicated obstacle; I could hear the unpleasant squeaking of metal crampons on the rock as indication of their skills on mixed terrain.

While I was waiting there I turned my headlamp in the direction of the place Francis Arsentiev was resting and thought the dark spot in the distance could be her body or just a rock. I met Fran in 1998 on back of a truck while on route to BC. She was a petite woman with beautiful eyes. My brief conversation with her left no doubt her origin and I was glad I found an American on my first trip to Mt. Everest. Fran died after she made an oxygen-less summit. Her death moved so many people and I was dismayed to witness people taking pictures of her body as it lay in place.

I gathered my thoughts and prayers and topped the First Step without any delay as soon as those ahead of us were out of sight.

Perhaps the best way to climb the Step is to wait until the person in front of you is out of sight so that the danger of being hit on the head is minimized. The other option is to get right behind the person in front of you so you don’t let any loose rocks get a chance to gain speed before they reach you.

I was at the same spot in 1999 chatting with Man Bahadur Tamang about Francis when a climber ahead dislodged a rock that hit Man Bahadur on rucksack with such force that it made a hole in the top. Man Bahadur might have been resting next to Fran if the rock had landed just four inches higher. I was furious at the climber above for negligence and for not yelling “ROCK!”. I was also furious at our own lack of awareness; instead of looking up we were looking down.

Ming Kipa and I had climbed just below Mushroom Rock when Dawa Nuru appeared out of what seemed nowhere. He had the Japanese leader on his tow and was changing his carabineer and ascender every time there was an anchor. I turned around and told him that I wished to have another picture with him at the summit. I also asked him to check my oxygen level and he was glad to give me the good news that I had plenty of it.

The traverse to the Second Step starts from Mushroom Rock on a slight traverse down the north face. Many places along this route are tricky because of the slab rock formations that abound. This year the snow helped greatly by making accessible footholds; thus facilitating rapid progress by all climbers.

At the bottom of the Second Step the now smaller climber snake came to an abrupt halt.

The Indian group was once again struggling on the most technical part of the entire climb. Those who had climbed the first part of the Step start taking pictures of the climbers below. The flashes from the cameras and the headlights from the camera holders were both serving to blind the teammates below.

At the bottom of the “Second Step’

The group repeated this self-defeating process on the ladder above.

We were finally afforded our turn at the ladder after much waiting and more than the usual amount of oxygen consumed. Ming Kipa is a petite woman, so I gave her a boost at the bottom of the first part. She made it to the ledge and now needed to tackle the slanted slab; the right-side of which has a precarious three mile drop. I climbed next to her on the ledge and encouraged her to jump on the slanted slab like on the horse; unfortunately, Ming Kipa had never ridden a horse and could not follow my analogy. I gave my partner a few more boosts and soon we had both made it to the conclusion of the Second Step.

At the bottom of the next ladder Ming Kipa yelled, “George look!” She was pointing out a crescent moon that took both of our breaths away due to our proximity to space. Just before the Third Step we managed to pass at least six more climbers and wasted no time catching up with the fastest of the Indian group. Light was gently appearing in the sky as it prepared for the sun not more than half an hour away from rising. We stayed right behind the group and crossed the yellow rocks towards the Pyramid. Soon I discovered that my usual route to the summit had been considerably altered due to the snow and ice formations. In the past, my route took me reverently past a deceased Slovenian climber, but we were somehow at least 25 yards away from him.

The slope was steep and in some parts the ice presented us with some difficulty. I tried many climbing styles and finally chose climbing sideways as my most comfortable. Ming Kipa was ahead of me by just five yards and we kept that distance between each other for the rest of the climb. It took us about fifteen minutes to top the Pyramid because we were delayed by the climbers ahead.

As we made our last traverse on the rock before the summit, I noticed Ming Kipa had clipped into an older rope that had deteriorated to shreds. I warned her to switch the carabineer and jumar to the newer line, but received no acknowledgement from her. I thought she did not hear me, so I repeated myself again to no avail. The third time I repeated myself I got a response of,

“I know, I know, little more up.”

 “I know, I know, just a little more” she repeated again

“Change the line NOW!” I yelled with frustration and concern. Ming Kipa had been diligently following my advice throughout the climb and now, minutes away from summit, she decided to choose ease over safety.

“Look down there, do you see that guy?” I pointed to a body just 10 yards below her.

“Do you want to be next to that guy? Or all the way down to the glacier?

She looked down and followed my finger to the spot where a French climber had died last year. Without a word she changed the carabineer to the newer rope and resumed her climb.

At the last rock ledge of the summit push I gave Ming Kipa another boost and noticed that her oxygen dial was reading zero. I asked her to look at dial and she assured me that she still had oxygen flow. I told her to stop at the Saddle to change out her bottle and, once again, my stubborn Sherpani wanted to go on and not listen. I had to grab her down jacket to get her to listen as I was afraid she would run out of oxygen and push to the summit without oxygen as we were only about ten to fifteen minutes of climbing time away.

I finally coaxed her to change the oxygen bottle and we were soon close enough for our first view of the summit. It seemed that the entire red climbing snake had made it to the summit. The Indian group had staked their claim to the summit by affixing a giant Indian flag covering almost the entire summit pyramid. It was impossible for anyone else to get up.

{INDIAN CLIMBERS}

I noticed that the Indian sirdir was taking a video at the summit and encouraged him to let the rest of the climbers below spend a little time at the summit by moving his group down and unclipping the massive flag. He had planted a statue of Buddha on the summit and came over to shake my hand.

“Look, look, I put Buddha here, take picture, take picture he encourage me.

“I think you should start getting your men down, enough for your group. “Look down how many are waiting to get to the summit and you are not letting them come and look how many more are coming, please this is not fair.” I said

He mumbled few words of encouragement to the Indian group, but his voice was not convincing enough to make even one to start on their way down. One member tripped while trying a different angle for his picture and he ended up dangerously close to plummeting down the Kangshung face. This event was much more persuasive than words and some in the group began to strap on their rucksacks and start down.

{SUMMIT}

Eventually, enough summit real estate became available so that Ming Kipa and I could stand next to each other. I shook her hand and said, “Congratulations for your second summit.”

Ming Kipa and I at the summit on May 15th

I then reached to my pocket and pulled out my sat phone to call my wife. Ironically, Lapka was on the other side of the world directly at sea level in Daytona Beach where she was staying with her sister for a short vacation.

‘Hello, hello,” came the voice.

“Top of the world,” I proclaimed.

“You summit? What about Doni?” she asked, referring to her younger sister Ming Kipa.

“Yes she is here,” I answered.

“Congratulations, congratulations, very good,” Lakpa delightedly remarked.

I was thinking of the many times I had reached the summit with Lakpa and I knew that if she was with me she would have had no trouble getting to the summit for the seventh time. She was genuinely happy for us and I assured her the weather was great and Doni had climbed well. I had other calls to make and I said good-bye.

I called my mother next, but the phone just rang and rang. I decided to try my good friend Nanette in Hartford Connecticut, but shortly after connecting I had to end the call because my fingers were starting to feel a little frostbitten.

After almost five minutes in the pocket warmers, my fingers regained enough warmth so that I could try to call my mother again.

She was very happy for me and started to cry.

I realized that I had not taken any pictures and rapidly began preparations for my shots. I needed to take a few summit photos with my daughter Sunny’s class picture that I was given by the Quaker Lane Cooperative Nursery School in West Hartford, Connecticut.

The Indian climbers were going back and forth making almost impossible to take a picture without having one of their faces in the shot. There were at least fifty climbers who were still waiting for their chance on the summit.

I asked Maila, a Sherpa friend, to take pictures of all the items I was asked to carry with me to the summit. “Keep shooting, keep shooting,” I asked, so I finish and allow others in my spot.

I eventually finished with my items and took the camera back to photograph my young partner next to Maila. Maila removed his goggles and oxygen mask as a sign that he knew how to be photographed appropriately atop Mt. Everest.

Maila Sherpa and Ming Kipa at the Summit

On my left I saw Dawa Nuru preparing the Nepali flag to be photographed. Dawa is a classy guy; he never brings anything other than his national flag and asked me to take pictures of him holding it. I started to take pictures of him everywhere he went. For few minutes Dawa left his Japanese client to himself so he could take a chance to admire the magnificent view offered on the early morning of May 15th.

I was glad to be on the summit with Dawa again. We sat by each other and shook hands with Maila taking over as the cameraman.

May 15th 2007 Dawa Nuru and me at the summit.

The joy, frustration, excitement, and lack of Oxygen made me forget that I had not photographed two items in my rucksack. One was a t-shirt of the Quaker Lane Cooperative Nursery School in West Hartford, Connecticut: a shirt with all the children’s thumb prints and names including Sunny’s. The other was a BMW 650 motorcycle t-shirt my brother Claudiu asked me to carry. It was only upon my arrival at ABC that I discovered my memory was severely impaired at the summit. Too late, I decided, I would give it another shot next year.

If only everyone on earth could see the world below from the summit of Mt Everest: perspective changes everything.

I was glad I had a moment of reflection to once again rekindle thoughts that are easily lost in my day-to-day life. Maybe the French pilot who made a historic helicopter landing atop Mt. Everest will be able to ferry others up for the magnificent view and similar reflections. I felt rejuvenated, rewarded, refreshed, and ready to head back down for my journey home. I stood at the top of the world for the ninth time and felt very privileged and lucky.

{END OF SUMMIT}

Time had passed slowly on the summit, but after just thirty minutes Ming Kipa and I were headed back down. Climbers were still going up and we had to wait for many to clear a path for our descent. The path was still very tight and we had to pay extra attention to the tired climbers still streaming up. The body of the French climber lay just few yards away and served as a good reminder that we had not completed the climb yet. Returning is statistically the hardest part of the climb and paying even more attention after the intoxication of the summit experience is what every climber needs to remember.

We reached the top of the summit pyramid and immediately the sun started to warm my body. I opened the down jacket zipper to help with ventilation. I wanted to pack the jacket, but knew that after the Second Step we would be on the North face and the temperatures would drop considerably. As long as I could keep from breaking a sweat I would be fine. Ming Kipa was yards in front of me and I wanted to keep her in sight at all times to make sure we would not be more than a shouting distance apart.

I set the goggles on my face and discovered that my visibility was diminished considerably. I could just pay more attention or remove the goggles and speed down toward the ABC. Our plan was clear; we would not stay at any camp higher than ABC as we had plenty of time for a speedy descent.

I knew that I might risk snow blindness without any eye protection; the only question was if I could travel with my goggles off fast enough to prevent my eyes from closing shut. Feeling great and with time on my side, I decided to go for speed.

The only possible delay could be from more traffic coming up the Second Step. I could now see climbers even above the First Step, but Ming Kipa’s smile gave me the extra assurance that we were both capable of bypassing any obstacles.

The well known “Second Step” when we return from the summit.

I returned to ABC and decided to pay a visit to the family of Nowang Tshiring, my kitchen guy, who received me as best as he could. I brought with me from the United States a large bag of children’s clothes collected by Tracy Daly, the mother of one of the children at the Qaker Lane Nursery School in West Hartford where Sunny, my older daughter, attended.

Nowang family at his house in Tibet.

Ming Kipa and I were happy with our performance, we got away with it, this time.

Clearly, a happy Sherpani, Ming Kipa with her second Everest summit

Next Part 4: {PASANG STORY ABOUT JAPANESE CLIMBER}

Part one if you missed it is here...

 

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