(May 24, 2001) was one of the most
frustrating, scary, nerve wracking and
inspirational days I can remember for a long
time. In many ways it epitomized
everything that is best and worst about
mountaineering. I have been in the
middle of my share of screw-ups over
the years, some of them with tragic endings. Today
I'm happy to report we were on the helping end
of the equation. Hopefully if we ever
need assistance, this deposit in the Karma
Bank will pay off!
our team of Dave Hahn, Andy Politz, Tap
Richards, and Jason Tanguay, accompanied by
Phu Nuru and Phu Dorge, had pushed from Camp 5
to Camp 6 on the North Ridge of Everest via
the REAL North Ridge...only the second
ascent since 1938 (two of our climbers, Brent
Okita and Jake Norton had made the first climb
of this classic route several weeks ago.
If you want to see more about this and our
expedition, you can go to our website www.mountainguides.com
and click on Everest 2001.) After
re-discovering the 1924 Camp 6 and doing
some more exploration and video work there,
they pushed into Camp 6 to get ready for the
summit ascent today. Everyone was
psyched, strong, and hoping to be on top by
problems started when one of Russell Brice's
guides woke the climbers up at 8:30 pm
and told them that one of their guides and one
of their clients were bivouacking at the Third
Step (8700m). Apparently the client had
been overcome with cerebral edema and was
unable to continue. The guide had
elected to spend the night with him. They
were in a dire situation and needed help.
There had only once before (post monsoon 1988
by the Spanish, from the South Summit, 8750m)
been a rescue higher than this on Everest, and
never from above the Second Step on the North
of our team (Dave, Tap, Jason, Phu Nuru, Phu
Dorge) left Camp 6 at about 12:30am.
Andy stayed at Camp 6, his plan to spend the
day searching some more. By dawn
(4:30am) the climbers were at the mushroom
rock (Camp 7) between the First and
Second Steps. There they were surprised
to run into three Russian climbers, huddled
together in an open bivouac without oxygen
(they had run out many hours before).
One of them could stand up, but the other two
were so messed up they could barely move.
It was clear to our climbers that they
had to do something. The first call was
to Andy Politz at Camp 6, to get him ready to
go up and help. He would leave a bit
later with more oxygen. Then the team
had to get the Russians on oxygen.
Fortunately, our two Sherpas were each
carrying an extra bottle, and the team had a
spare regulator and a "T" fitting.
They had to cut the ends of the Russians
oxygen hoses to accommodate the "T",
which was then plugged into one of our
American cylinders and regulators. At 5
liters per minute the two sickest climbers would
have about 6 hours of O2 to share. Then
each climber was given 8mg of dexamethasome.
After spending an hour with the Russians,
during which time the sun came up, the
Russians began to move around a bit and
look better. The team decided to take
Phu Nuru's oxygen bottle, mask and regulator
with them and send Phu Nuru down. Off he
went, as the Russians started to get ready to
go down also. Then our climbers started
across the Traverse to the Second Step.
team cruised up the Second Step and reached
the Third Step, where the next two persons
were bivouacked, by 6:50am. There, they
took Phu Dorge's oxygen set, and set him down
without any (both Phu Nuru and Phu Dorge made
it down OK). The idea was to give Phu
Dorge's oxygen to one of the stricken climbers
and Phu Nuru's to the other...and hopefully be
able to continue themselves to the summit.
After a few minutes at the site, however, it
became immediately obvious that neither of
these climbers were going anywhere without
major help. It was obvious that going to
the summit, only an hour away, was out of the
question for our team. Neither sick climber
could even stand up. Both were partially
blind from cerebral edema. Both had some
frostbite. Walking was impossible.
Again, our team administered oxygen and
dexamethasome. Then two other climbers came along, on there way to the top,
but they kept on climbing.
an hour, the two sick men could barely
stand up with help. Trying to get them
to walk was agonizing. It took fully
another hour to go 50 yards down the ridge.
Jason and Tap were with the guide, Dave with
the client, all pulling and dragging. The first party of three reached the top of
the Second Step at 10am, and took over an hour
to lower the sick man down. Dave and the
sick client reached the top of the Second Step
at 11:15 and took another hour to lower down.
It took both groups another hour from the
bottom of the Step to reach the mushroom rock,
where they met Andy Politz, who arrived with another
oxygen bottle. Along the Traverse they
were met by Phurba, one of Russell's Sherpa's
who also came up with another oxygen
bottle, and helped Dave and the client across
the steep and dangerous Traverse. From
the mushroom rock, it took until 2pm for the
group to reach the First Step. Along the
way they were met by Lobsang, another of
Russell's Sherpas, who brought more oxygen and
a strong set of arms for hauling and dragging.
Near the First Step, two other
climbers, now on their way back from the
summit, again passed the rescue team, and
continued without helping. [Unclear if they
knew there was problems.]
lower down brought everyone off the First
Step. Then the long walk across the
ridge to the Yellow Band gullies. Along
the way both of the patients started to do
better and were able to walk. The oxygen
and dex were kicking in! Two more of
Russell's Sherpas showed up with more oxygen
tragedy. At the top of the gully the
rescue team they came across one of the
Russian climbers who had collapsed. Andy
administered more dex, but the man died in his
arms. The other Russians made in back to
Camp 6 OK, but this one guy, who had been in
the worse shape of the three, had apparently
gone over the line. About the same time
we received a radio call from our friend in
the Australian group, who said that his tent
partner had just died suddenly at Camp 5.
What a day!
everyone made it back to camp. I was super
proud of what Dave, Andy, Tap, and Jason had
accomplished. They put their personal
goals on the back burner and saved four out of
five people, with virtually no assistance.
I was also bummed that they didn't get to make
the top, knowing how hard they had worked.
I guess that's just the way it goes here...if
you don't like the uncertainty, you shouldn't
dusk Dave, Andy, Jason, and Tap headed down to
Camp 5, our expedition essentially over. At
Base Camp, Jochen and I had a talk and
agreed how all this death and destruction
really puts in perspective the research
objectives of our expedition. We love
the history of the early pioneer climbers and
are constantly amazed by their exploits...but
we just can't forget what a dangerous place
this can be. George Mallory and Andrew
Irvine were the first in what has become a
very long list of people who went too far,
past the point of no return, and paid the big
we are heading home. The Sherpas will
haul down the rest of the tents and empty
oxygen bottles tomorrow. I think we will
get off the big hill having left only one
(Dave left a "dead soldier" at the
mushroom rock on the way down) cylinder
behind. If we can get through the yak
rodeo of the next few days unscathed, and make
it past the wilds of Zhangmu, we will have
succeeded in our primary objective: coming
Simonson leader on the IMG North Expedition
deaths not reported by Eric are below:
on above is here.
state that Channel 10, one of Australia's TV
networks, reported tonight (10.40 pm, Thursday
24 May) that Mark Auricht from South Australia
had died attempting Everest from the north side
after his partner, Duncan Chessell had summited.
It was reported that Mark had had a virus, but
there were not any details of where he died, if
he had attempted to reach the summit or died in
a high camp.
Mark Auricht's death was reported on the late
news on Channel 7 and Channel 9, Australia's
other two commercial networks.
7 reported that he had died in his tent at 7,900
meters, and that four members of the Australian
Army Alpine Association's team had tried to save
him. Channel 7 reported that his family had been
advised of Mark's death this afternoon Thursday 24/5. They also had a quote from his
wife. and Channel 9 had a short report from our
Department of Foreign Affairs.