‘My client disagreed…’ Nepali guide saves climber in Everest ‘death zone’

“When I found him in this state, I didn’t have the heart to leave him there,” Gelje Sherpa told AFP. That day, however, other climbers before him had passed in front of this Malaysian climber in difficulty at more than 8,000 meters without seeing fit to help him.

Gelje Sherpa, 30, was guiding a Chinese client to the top of the world’s tallest mountain, at 8,849 meters, and planned to help him down by paraglider. But a few hundred meters from the summit, they discovered at an altitude of more than 8,000 m a man all alone, shivering with cold, clinging to a rope, in the famous “death zone”, a technically difficult passage where the thin air and freezing temperatures increase the risk of suffering from altitude sickness.

The customer finally apologized

“It’s a place where you have to think about your survival first,” he explained. However, Gelje Sherpa did not hesitate to announce to his client whose Everest expedition had cost at least 45,000 dollars that they would not go to the top. “When I decided to go down, my client didn’t agree at first,” he said. Obviously, he had arrived there after spending a lot of money, he had been dreaming about it for years, he had to free up time to come and climb here. »

“He got mad and said he wanted to get to the top,” he continued. I had to reprimand him and remind him that he had to come down because he was my responsibility, he couldn’t go up without me to the top. He got angry”. The Nepalese insisted on the need to help the Malaysian to come down. “Then he realized that ‘rescue’ meant I wanted to save him. He understood and apologized later,” he added.

“You are a god”

The guide placed the Malaysian on his oxygen supply helping to improve his condition but it was very difficult for him to walk. The Nepalese, who is around 1.60m tall and weighs 55kg, had to carry the sufferer up some of the toughest sections of the mountain.

“It’s a very difficult mission to bring someone down from there while carrying them. But some sections are very rocky, it was impossible to drag him,” argues Gelje Sherpa, “he would have broken his bones, he was already not well…” It took him nearly six hours to bring him to at Camp 4. “I’ve been on a lot of search and rescue missions, but it was very difficult,” he admitted.

At Camp 4, another guide helped him continue his descent with the ailing climber wrapped in sleeping bags held down by ropes. So they were able to drag it up the snowy slopes and carry it when needed.

A third of the dead are guides

When they finally reached Camp 3 at 7,162 meters, a helicopter took over and transported them to base camp. Gelje Sherpa has not seen the Malaysian mountaineer since his rescue but he received a thank you message.

“He wrote to me ‘You saved my life, you are a god for me’”, confided the guide. The mountaineering industry in the Himalayas relies on the experience of Sherpas, usually from the valleys of Everest. They pay a heavy price to accompany hundreds of mountaineers each year. A third of the dead on Everest are Nepali climbers.

“As a guide, you feel responsible for others on the mountain and you have to make difficult decisions”, points out Ang Norbu Sherpa, president of the National Association of Mountain Guides of Nepal, before concluding “what he has done is honourable”.

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