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Gheorghe (aka George) Dijmarescu: Everest 2002

WHAT PRICE WOULD YOU PAY FOR YOUR OWN LIFE?

Dear EverestNews.com, After summiting Mt. Everest lots of climbers go to their respective countries and write books and articles in climbing magazines and other publications. I read many of such articles but after 5 Everest Expeditions and witness of many rescues, most by Sherpa climbers, why? Simple answer, because they poses strength, stamina and determination but of course are motivated and lured by an extra pay check, paycheck which sometime does not come. I would ask all: WHAT PRICE WOULD YOU PAY FOR YOUR OWN LIFE? or to ask in a simpler way, so Sherpas can understand too: How much would you pay so Sherpas can get you out of the mountain and you can live? I really think we can go crazy adding zeroes to that number.

This season I was part of one of International expeditions run by Asian Trekking of Nepal, with a total number of 9 members. Among them were 2 German nationals, Claudia Bäumler and Hartmut Ulrich. Claudia was a tenacious and determined 34 year old woman whom I qualify as a very good climber who chose to go to the top of Mt. Everest with her companion Hartmut despite the fact that she had near tragic experience on Cho Oyu a few years back, Hartmut got ill and had to be rescued from high on the mountain and later to be carried by a yak, all this by her own account. On this trip they hired the help of a Sherpa, Mingma Sherpa of Thamo but chose not to have Mingma for the summit push. I remember advising Claudia to use the skills, experience and strength of Mingma after all he is a Everest summiter from the South side but had been high enough on North side. I met Mingma in 1999, he is a young 23 years old Sherpa from Thamo in the Solukhumbu. For wherever reasons they chose not to take Mingma for the summit but I suspect money play part in that decision, money for Oxygen, mask with regulator and a summit bonus. Of course Everest without Sherpa or without Oxygen can be a higher personal prize. In my opinion Hartmut was no match in climbing for Claudia on this trip she was faster more alert full of life on the other hand Hartmut was looking tired sometime exhausted. They climbed ahead of me on the summit day and sometime I can observed them and, their positions and speeds. I believed Hartmut was at the end of his physical powers atop second step, I could see him bending over his ice ax and panting with rests longer and longer. At the snow pyramid he was utterly exhausted but Hartmut had a determination hard to match and I am sure there was also a man ego, his female partner was well ahead and going strong. Claudia reached the summit first and waited for Hartmut. On descent I could see again the two, order unchanged, Claudia first Hartmut second. I was about 45 minutes from camp 3 when I noticed a man in red down jacket sitting just 10 minutes from the tents of camp 3. I thought someone is taking photographs of the sunset and surroundings. As I cam lower down the yellow band I noticed the person in the same place virtually unmoved and again several minutes later, I suspected was something wrong with that person. It become dark but I didn't bother to put my headlamp. I was now at the point where that man sat down but I couldn't see him anymore, well I thought he went into his tent. As I went lower I noticed 2 climbers one sitting the other standing with a thermos in his hands trying to have a conversation with the man sitting, he was a Sherpa who mention he has given the man sitting some cold drink but could not understand why the sitting man don't want to walk another 5 minutes to his tent. I was tired and since the man didn't initiate a conversation I kept going down towards my shelter. A few yards away from my tent, Claudia and Hartmut had their tents pitched, she was at the front of her tent and asked me if I see Hartmut, immediately everything fell in place, that man was Hartmut and I didn't recognize him. She was very worry about him and she was calling his name loud from time to time. I assured her that he is only 5 minutes away and he will show up soon then I went inside my tent and started to hydrate, also making preparation to sleep. Once inside and not moving my body temperature went down and I felt cold, Claudia appeared at my door and she was almost hysterical, she was sick worried now started begging me: Please George you know many Sherpa we must send someone and find Hartmut" She went on and explain that Hartmut might have the same symptoms like in Cho Oyu when he is at the real end of his power, to me didn't make sense, he was only 5 minutes away but She was probably right, he must be at the end of his powers unable to stand up or his mind has slipped away and lost sense of where he was therefore making impossible to find the tents. I started screaming the name of one of the Sherpa from a Basque team, Thilen, Thilen but I had no answer, I knew climbers were tired coming from summit and most unwilling to get out of their sleeping bags, nearby was couple of tents from a Japanese team but most of the sherpas went up to rescue an old Japanese man who was moving very slow and eventually spent the night on the ridge with 3 sherpas, another fascinating, Hollywood like story. We were asking for help and nobody answered the call, then I told Claudia that we should change the call a bit into: Please help we have Oxygen and MONEY. A Sherpa from a Japanese team took the call, he pun on Claudia's Oxygen and went searching for Hartmut, he found him sitting and crying for help. He was shaking violently. Inside the tent Claudia could prepare hot drinks and care for Hartmut. I the morning the two started descending ahead of me but I found them somewhere at 8100-8200m, they both sat down, Claudia was carrying the heavy pack, perhaps to heavy for her tired body. Just below was a series of rock steps, section which Hartmut had no confidence in descending. He was without Oxygen  and I asked why he is not having the mask on, Claudia replied that they had no more Oxygen and they left the mask with regulator at camp 3 in order to save weight. Hartmut face was covered in a white froth. I was using Oxygen, a bottle which I found in a pile of empty bottles just below camp 3. This bottle was less that half full, the regulator indicated 100 pressure, perhaps 3-4 hours of flow at one liter per minute. I decided that Hartmut will be better of with Oxygen and I put on his face my mask and encouraged him to breed deep the precious gas. In only 5 minutes Hartmut had started to rise and he had a different mood, the white froth disappeared and for a moment I thought the gas will push him down towards ABC. We had a long talk and I assured him that I will stay with him and help him in any way I can. Hartmut was still afraid of the difficult rock steps below and didn't give me confidence that he can tackle it. Shortly Ang Mingma a Sherpa from our International Expedition came and was in his way to carry a load to camp 3 for his member Simone Moro. Without asking he pulled a full bottle of Oxygen from his back pack and offered to Hartmut but mention that will have to be paid for since is not his bottle. It was agreed. He also encouraged Hartmut to go slowly down, in the mean time he said will go fast drop his load and will come as fast as possible and assist us in going down. A really generous offer, we desperately needed the help of a strong Sherpa and Ang Mingma was a symbol of a perfect Sherpa. He started up with an incredible speed and a huge load, I estimated he will come back in aprox. one hour. Mingma was right we had to be on move slowly every step down counts but Hartmut only give up on the idea to sit down after I started to make a few steps down, he finally made a couple of shaky steps and then went back to his sit. It started to snow and I could notice the wind intensifying every moment. Hartmut was shaking, he wear Gore Tex trousers not down. After at least 10 minutes we try again to go down, this time Hartmut made crucial few steps then stop again, I took his left arm strap it around my neck and lift his body on my back, I had him of the ground and in control, I made a few steps down through the rock steps and let him down where was an easy ground , he made several steps on his own, I was going ahead and advised him to keep his hands on my shoulders, I had a good grip on the fixed rope and was no way for him to fall face down. Hartmut was asking for breaks every 10 steps, then he will sit down, Claudia was behind Hartmut carrying that heavy pack, she was silent so silent that Hartmut was asking if she is behind, so tired he was  he had no energy to look back behind himself. I start to think of a strategy which will facilitate a speedy and safely descent, however nothing realistic came to mind. With this speed we were going nowhere. The wind was now strong enough to make me think we will have a serious problem. I knew that lower on the ridge the wind is usually stronger only down to North Col is a finally relief from the stinging snow blasting wind. Two Sherpa came up and I asked them to give Hartmut some hot tea, he drank and I didn't hear him say thank you. Shortly after Ang Mingma came and he had a short rope in his hand which without permission or saying a word started to attach it to Hartmut's harness karabiner. He was sure and confident in his move, everything he did show routine experience. Ang Mingma of Thame was at the top of Mt. Everest twice before and numerous other mountains, he had special training in rescue and technical climbing. Could we ask for a better Sherpa?. I was going first with the rope wrapped twice around my right arm, Hartmut second keeping his hands on my shoulders, Ang Mingma behind him short roping Hartmut in case he might fell down, Claudia behind now without the large pack who was carried now by Ang Mingma. Every 20 steps or so Hartmut will ask for rest, which most he will take sitting, so was the routine for hours that he will not ask for "pit stops" he will just pulled the rope and sit down, then will tug the rope when he was ready do go a few more steps. We were not making significant progress and now the wind really worried me. I look down and I could see 7900m camp perhaps another hour away with our speed from us. I asked Ang Mingma for a small meeting and express my concern that we could not possibly go lower than camp 7900m with that speed. He look at me for a few seconds and he said: "You are right" we will go to the tents and try to find one that is empty. Half an hour later the wind was at least 100Km/hr blasting with rice size icicles making very difficult to see where we went. Just before the tents I went ahead and check if the two tents pitched one next to another were empty and suitable for us. The answer was positive and I called upon them to come and see for themselves. Claudia came first and she entered the tent, then Hartmut crawled inside, while he was entering the tent I noticed his butt was naked, the harness has managed somehow to pull his pants down and one of the reasons he was shaken so much. End of part one.

Regards, George Dijmarescu

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