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Gheorghe (aka George) Dijmarescu: Everest 2002

I lost my friend Zoran.

Dear, With sadness and regret I am the one again to answer mails, which are so many in our mail box, however something happened to the server and we were unable to connect via satellite phone. Although the information I posed are many, plentiful and most important truthful to shed a light at what happened to Zoran Miletic the climber who died on Mt. Everest in a Japanese tent at 7800 meters. He was found by couple of Sherpa from a Japanese group while they tried to recover some of their stuff from a broken tent. It is important to mention that none of the tents at camp 2 (7800m) survived the intensity, speed and duration of the wind which blasted the upper part of Everest on May 18 and May 19. Zoran was a dear friend of mine whom I met in Everest in 1999, an excellent companion, a fun, fun loving, a true pal. He decided to climb with me motivating that he has more chances with me than with his expedition members. I offered my company as a climbing partner not as a guide. I also offered my tent in camp 2 and camp 3 without any charge. When we arrived at camp 2 my tent was not pitched but there was one of my Sherpa friends who let us use one of his tents. Zoran and I slept together in the same tent and we started to camp 3 in the same time about 8:30 AM on May 16. It was a windy morning, both of us climbed without oxygen and both had not yet decided if we would use Oxygen for the summit attempt. Unfortunately as it usually happens with climbers, Zoran didn't have the same speed as me and sometime fell back as far as 1/2 hour. Then I would sit down and wait for him to catch up. The cold sometimes would not permit to wait too long. I cannot say that we made a good time to camp 3 but we arrived there about between 3-3:30 PM. In camp 3 I had a small 2 person (EMS) tent pitched supplied with 2 gas cartridges and a burner, since eating at this altitude is impossible for me I didn't bother to carry any food. However Zoran had mentioned that he had some food and I noticed him eating something but I don't believe was more than some power bar or chocolate. He also was advised by me to carry at least one gas cartridge but I am not sure he did since he didn't bother to fire the stove, nor that I did. I arrived first at camp 3 but just minutes before Zoran and after a brief talk with some Sherpa friends, I occupied half of my tent and wait for Zoran to arrive. As I prepared my stuff for summit, I noticed that Zoran fail to show up at the tent, then a Sherpa informed me that he will sleep at a British camp. Knowing this I sent a Sherpa to ask Zoran to come and have a talk about the use of Oxygen. He showed up with his back pack and joking asked me: "This is your tent?" and I replied: Yea, small but strong, then he tease me again saying that's to small for two big guys like us (Zoran was about the same height as me 6'2" but slimmer perhaps 180lb.) Days in advance I told Zoran my strategy and habits at camp 3 and that was simple: lay down and try my best to get some sleep, it worked for me in the past and I had no intention to depart from what had worked for me. At camp 3 no one can feel fine or not tired. Tired I was. I decided to use Oxygen. A decision which I made clear to Zoran and encouraged him to use it as well. Now I don't need to get into details how I got Oxygen and mask with regulator for me and Zoran. It was a preparation which I made days before. However Zoran didn't have money to pay for the Oxygen and mask with regulator and for this I guaranteed payment in case Zoran didn't pay for. In other words I got the equipment on credit for him. He accepted the use of supplementary Oxygen and I provided him with complete Russian system of mask, regulator and 2 bottles of Poisk Oxygen for which he agreed to pay $750.00 USD. He insisted that 2 bottles were sufficient for his ascent. Which is true in the case, one uses a low flow of Oxygen per minute. I asked Zoran if he ever used Oxygen for climbing, a fact to which he answered negative. However in 1999 he was believed to use oxygen in his lengthy stay at high altitude something to which we referred as "Zoran syndrome". I tried to show him the dials since the regulator can be confusing especially at high altitude but Zoran didn't pay attention and this irritated me a bit forcing me to raise my voice to him. It was important that he understood how many hours of Oxygen he would have with a liter of flow per minute and 2 liters per minute and so on. Last year I played increasing and decreasing the flow at each step on the ridge, later to learn that on return just below the third step my supply of Oxygen was zero. Then started the nightmare. This was the reason I insisted on paying attention on Oxygen issue. Once again since I decided to use Oxygen I put the mask on my face and said good night to Zoran. He was still moving for about 15 minutes, a fact which made me remind him of our deal and that he let me rest in peace. He stopped moving and went to sleep himself. I woke up at midnight and I called Zoran, he answered that he was OK and that he was ready to go but insisted that I start first to get ready. The night was very cold, the walls  of the tent were covered inside with a thin layer of snow from condensation, snow which fell on top of us every time we moved or touched the tent creating a real pleasure when the cold material fell behind the neck. In the other way the sleeping bag was warm and lovely. It took me around 20 minutes to get ready then I exited the tent and told Zoran that he is next. I couldn't see what he was doing inside but he was ready rather fast perhaps 15 minutes. He asked from inside if there is any hot drink. Zoran knew there were lots of Sherpa friends of mine and asked for "hot drink" at 8300 meters. To his luck Chhiring Sherpa, a good friend of mine, and a member of Zoran's expedition in 1999 handed me a thermos with a liter of hot water which I give Zoran. He poured the water into his plastic bottle. He was polite and thanked the Sherpa for his generosity. A real act of good heart and care from his part. Lamps ready, I started first at about 12:45- 1:00 AM, Zoran was perhaps seconds behind, however is difficult to see because of darkness and because other climbers who compete for the upper spots. Speed, strength, determination and of course experience play important roles on this time and height. Zoran was motivated and he said many times that he was ready. I sure believed him. The route is easy at first and with a little incline. However since everyone just starts the climb, it is breath taking, at least for me. About 15-20 minutes into the climb  I realized that something is wrong with either me or my Oxygen. I was stunned to see that my bottle was totally empty. I stopped to change it and after a few minutes Zoran came by my side and looked at me struggling to attach the regulator to the second bottle. I was using an American type mask to which I was not satisfied with and I proposed Zoran to switch masks, something he declined to do. He went ahead with his climb and I was able to only pass him after about another hour, somewhere in the yellow band. We went on and the next and last time I saw Zoran was when I was atop second step. I look down the ridge and saw the distinctive colors of Zoran Gore Tex trousers and his light blue down parka. He was perhaps the only one in that day who chose to wear Gore Tex pants instead of down. Either way, down is superior warmth and weight plus in case of emergency down, can save ones life. I am not aware why Zoran made that choice. Zoran was somewhere in between the first and second step, once I moved past second step the view down is obstructed by the height of second step and I lost all visual contact with everything below second step. Then I was too far away to distinguish climbers which appeared again when I was atop third step. I strongly believe that Zoran never climbed second step. He realized he was to slow and did the right thing: turned his back on the climb and face to a retreat, something every rational climber would do. I will only speculate if I will say what he did on way back. I did my climb and returned to camp 3. It was already dark. I found his summit back pack in the tent and his sleeping bag missing. I assumed that he returned much earlier to camp 3 and decided to go down to a lower camps perhaps all the way to Advanced Base Camp. For a moment I was jealous of him, imagining he is already, drinking beer in ABC. Again this was my logical assumption at that time. The next morning I started to descend from camp 3 only to find a couple of climbers in desperate need of help 30 minutes into my descent. What followed was one of the most well executed, happy ending rescues I ever witnessed. I will come back with the full story later in my reporting. Realizing that the 2 climbers will not be able to descend lower than the 7900 meter camp, one of them was at the end of his powers, I decided together with one of the best Sherpa I ever met. (His name was Ang Mingma Sherpa, he was returning from camp 3 where he made a deposit drop for Simone Moro.) In fact he was hired by Simone. I and Mingma herded inside a tent the two exhausted climbers then Mingma announced that he will not stay at that altitude besides he had obligation first to his member, Simone. He started descending almost immediately. I decided to stay with the two and got into a near by tent, immediately. I got on the radio with the Sherpa Mingma of Thamo who was hired by the two but who also was not allowed to go for summit, so he descended to ABC. At first he didn't believed me that his members would need immediate assistance and that there was a serious rescue scenario. He said on the radio: "Che rescue" in Nepali :"What rescue". I warned him that if he didn't come in that day he will be in part responsible for the circumstances. Ang Mingma donated a full bottle of his stash of Oxygen. I to gave up my bottle which was only half full. The two also had not taken their masks and regulators from camp 3. I gave my mask to the ill climber. Mingma came to 7900 meters from ABC in 6 hours and 15 minutes with hot drinks and some food for the two and 2 bottles of spring water for me as per my request. I was also tired but very much in control. In all this time I made several radio contacts with the two assuring them that Mingma is in his way. It was already too late for me to start descending. I had not taken my sleeping bag from camp 3 since a climber asked me to leave it for him along with the tent. We were facing a scenario of a night on 7900 meters without sleeping bags. Before we arrived at 7900 meters, the wind was blowing with at least 120Km/hr. A Dutch tent became airborne with sleeping bags, gas and a paraglider inside. It looked like a piece of paper picked up by the turbulence between skyscrapers in mid Manhattan. We saved two tents by occupying them. The wind had intensified to somewhere 150- 180 Km/hr. I could see the floor of the tent lifting of the ground, gusts of stronger wind I could hear like an approaching train. Mingma and I were getting ready, holding the walls from inside, the wind was pushing so hard we both had a hard time keeping the tent shape, a snapping pole was a total serious problem for us. Tired of doing such routine I braced my back to the vulnerable wall and let the wind rock me all night. After preparing hot drinks for his members, Mingma join me in the struggle to keep our host tent in one piece. We desperately needed at least a sleeping bag so Mingma said I know a sleeping bag somewhere, he went out and returned with a sleeping bag which I would not use on the sandy beach of Miami in the month of July. It was 1/4inch thick and total worthless at that place, but Mingma arrived without down suit. He had only a fake cheep Nepali "Gore Tex" suit. We decided to keep our boots on, both of us had the best (One Sport) and were confident they would keep our toes. However about 1 AM, I didn't feel nothing below my ankles and I feared frostbite. Since I had a down suit. I let Mingma put his hands inside my jacket in order to save and keep his extremities warm. We were a lot closer but I will not describe. It would be a total lie, if I said we slept that night. Twice Mingma got up and made some cold "Tung juice" for me. I knew drinking and drinking is key to survive longer. We needed better weather in the morning and a dash retreat for lower camps. At camp one I met Ivan Laredo who informed me that Zoran didn't returned to ABC. I later learned that a couple of Sherpa from a Japanese team went up to help rescue an old Japanese man in a dare need of help when they came to 7800 meters and to one of their tents, a man to which they only saw the face opened the top portion of the tent and said: Please help me, the two said they gave him 2 cups of tea and noticed scratches to his hands and face but they needed to continue their ascent and to the rescue to which they were bound for. Further information will come in the next days from Skripko's team, Mingma Gelu Sherpa was supposed to go to camp 2 and identify the "long body into a broken tent". The news of discovering the "body" came 20 minutes before I departed ABC. I was told by Bobby and Slava that the family of Zoran had being informed by Bobby's wife in Bulgaria. Bobby said he could not do the difficult task and call Zoran's family, this I understand and believe. I too will not do such things. Now in Kathmandu and just able to " fix" our trouble E-mail. I find 55 messages, most of them inquiring about Zoran in English and some in Serbian. I will forward all the messages to Slava's E-mail. On the mountain Slava's group used my computer and his sat phone, when I left ABC. I took my computer with me but Slava assured me that is something wrong with the server and the explanation why we didn't answered to our mails. I know it is late but this is the earliest I could answer. Perhaps and I hope someone from Slava and Bobby group already called and explained more. I have no way of contacting Slava or Bobby. Let me know what I can do to help Zoran's family. He was a true friend and I will personally missed him. I hope Zoran's family will find the strength to accept that is no hope in finding Zoran alive, his body is at 7800 meters of altitude. High enough to make it difficult and costly bringing his body down but this is not something impossible. However such a decision will bring more pain to the family and had to be made by his close relatives. Slava and Boby were left to do at least a formal burial at the site. It is a simple rock piling grave. It is common for people who died on Everest or other big mountains to be left where they are or to be pushed down the mountain out of the site. However some bodies lie undignifying at higher altitude where not even a burial is possible. I think it is best to fulfill what Zoran would have liked. However, I don't believe he would like his family to suffer the pain of the loss twice and put his loves one through a costly and lengthy body recovery plus the cost of transportation to Nis. I am also of Orthodox religion and I do know of the customs and rituals of that religion. I lost my older brother when I was 10 years old and my mother went to his grave weekly and cried for hours. His family and friends have to think long and hard. There is no urgency here, no mobilization for a rescue attempt. There is time enough to make a wise decision. I hope they will do so.

May God rest his soul 

Regards, George Dijmarescu

PS I summited on May 17 

Note George was NOT on the same team as Zoran. Zoran was on the Russian commercial expedition of Viatcheslav (Slava) Skripko Leader and guide (Russia) and Borislav (Boby) Dimitrov Leader and guide (Bulgaria).

Also Note:, has been told from climbers and the family of Zoran that the family was notified by phone of Zoran's death.


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