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Real Everest Heroes

Dear Friends,

We’re wrapping up the expedition soon. We’ll have a final report when we get to Kathmandu but until then will keep on transmitting until we have to pack to leave on the 28th.

Yesterday, members (all professional guides) of the IMG 8000/Mallory + Irvine Research Expedition 2001 abandoned their summit bid to save the lives of stricken climbers on the summit ridge. While we have had an informal arrangement not to report on the movements or activities of the Eric Simonson-led expedition owing to some exclusive news arrangements, the gallantry of the American team for their deeds on the 24th deserves a special mention in today’s report. Information is a bit sketchy in places and we’d be happy to make suitable changes to the story if corrected.

Beginning early in the morning, the team of Andy Politz, Dave Hahn, Jason Tanguay, Tap Richards, Phu Nuru and Phu Dorje began a swift ascent of the standard summit route when three Russian climbers were found huddled near Mushroom Rock (between the First and Second Steps) — in pretty bad shape after having spent a night out after their summit bid. Oxygen was given, modifications made to their oxygen kit so a switch could be made to the American oxygen tanks. High altitude medicines were administered and the team stayed until the Russians had revived sufficiently to get moving downhill. A couple of hours later, two members of Russell Brice’s team were discovered near the bottom of the 3rd Step. Guide Andy Lapkass and a client had also spent a night out. It is uncertain if Andy Lapkass had decided to stay with his client to help him through the harsh night or was himself exhausted from the summit bid. In any case, both were suffering from vision problems (most likely caused by cerebral edema), frostbite and unable to move. Again, medicines and oxygen were administered. The sherpas attached to the IMG 8000 team gave up their oxygen gear for these climbers and descended. Shortly after, the summit bid was called off so that these two stricken climbers could be escorted down to safety by the team.

The slow and extremely taxing affair took all day (a beautiful summit day with many summtting from both sides). Russell Brice sent up a team of sherpas with extra oxygen to Camp 6 where his other guide, Chris Warner had spent the night in relative warmth and safety after successfully tagging the summit and returning. The rest of the Russian team were not involved in the rescue.

It is not known if Warner made any significant attempt to assist in the rescue after the arrival of his team’s sherpas. It is known however that several of Russell’s sherpas did make a move up the ridge with extra oxygen in the rescue. Russell Brice has been involved himself in coordinating numerous rescues in the past ten years so it seems the deposits of good karma that have been made paid off yesterday when it was his team’s turn to need help from others. Later in the afternoon, the team came across the same Russians they had helped earlier in the day, still struggling down. More assistance was rendered but one Russian was beyond help and died. The Americans were becoming almost like a extreme altitude paramedic squad.

In an unrelated situation, another climber died in high camp from yet to be confirmed causes. Our sympathies to all the friends and families of the lost climbers.

All the injured climbers still have to make their way down to the North Col and then the long, 21km trek back to basecamp. But it appears they are out of mortal danger now.

It must also be added that on the north side, several teams passed by both teams of these stricken climbers on May 24th without rendering or offering any major help to them. It seems ” summit first ” is the motto of many on Everest.

Including the Chinese glaciologist last month (he is now reported to be alive and recovering), these rescues by the Simonson team have saved at least FIVE lives on Everest this season. In both cases, team members had given up summit chances to render assistance.

I personally wonder how many summitters from the north side on May 24th will go home with a little twinge of guilt for not helping. But being called an ” Everest hero” by the undiscriminating media and friends for the rest of their lives must certainly help assuage the guilt……..

In the meantime, you can send your good wishes to some ‘real’ Everest heroes on http://www.mountainguides.com (The Mallory + Irvine Research Expedition 2001 site).

Way to go, guys.
Dave Lim
at East Rongbuk Base Camp

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