Skip to comments.Dying Brit climber 'too big' to rescue off Everest (the REAL story)
Posted on 06/14/2006 5:50:58 AM PDT by Mr. Brightside
Dying Brit climber 'too big' to rescue off Everest
By MICHAEL FIELD
The New Zealand mountaineer who ordered climbers to leave a dying Briton near the summit of Mt Everest says it was impossible to carry the big man off the peak.
Double amputee Mark Inglis was one of four New Zealanders in a group of 40 who walked past dying David Sharp during their descent of Everest on May 15. Most of them were part of a Discovery Channel film crew, which included Queenstown cameraman Mark Whetu.
The crew filmed the dying British mountaineer in his last conscious moments on the mountain.
Inglis' party and the Discovery crew were under the direction of Himex, a major professional guiding company run by Kiwi mountaineer Russell Brice.
Brice revealed yesterday that Sharp was lying on top of the body of an Indian climber known as "Green Boots". The Indian's body had been in a small 8500m high cave since 1996.
The gruesome events on top of Mt Everest this summer, in which 11 people eventually died, sparked a storm of controversy led by Sir Edmund Hillary, who said the attitude displayed by the climbers was horrifying.
As Inglis was last week having surgery on his frostbitten hands, a fuller story of what happened has begun to emerge as professional climbers and support crews get home.
Brice said on the day of the incident he had been based at the North Col camp, watching his clients' progress through a telescope.
At 1.41am his "sidar" or head sherpa, Phurba Tashi, radioed saying he was at "Green Boots" but made no mention of Sharp. Ten minutes later the main group, including Inglis, reached that point.
"At no stage during the ascent did I know that there was a man in trouble," Brice said.
Most of Brice's climbers reached the summit between 6.15am and 7.03am, but Brice said he noticed two of his clients were ascending too slowly and ordered them down. Both needed help to get off. After reaching the summit, Inglis began his descent and joined the other two climbers at the Third Step at 9.15am.
Fifteen minutes later Brice said "one of the climbers called me to say that there was a big man about to die". This was the first he heard of Sharp's predicament.
"I established that David was still alive but unconscious and that his arms were frozen to the elbow and his legs were frozen to the knee, and that he had frost bite to the nose," Brice said.
"The climber said that David had an oxygen system with him but was not wearing it, and was trying to assist with getting the mask back onto David."
Brice said he was acutely aware of the "struggle" going on to get Inglis and the other two off the mountain and knew the sherpas had been out of camp for more than 10 hours and were low on oxygen.
"I told the climber who encountered David to continue down the mountain as at this altitude and with this terrain it is not possible to carry an unconscious person with only the people that I had on the mountain at that time."
A Turkish group tried to help and Phurba found some oxygen and gave it to Sharp.
"They attempted to get David to his feet, but he kept collapsing, so they shifted David just a few feet into the sun."
Brice said he had worked with Phurba, one of the strongest sherpas on the mountain, for years.
"We have been involved in many self, and assisted rescues over the years, so I know that if there was a chance to help he would willingly do so, and would have immediately called me to start the logistics that would be required. His silence was ominous."
Brice said he had no idea of Sharp's movements before his death and had no reports about him in trouble before finding him at "Green Boots."
He assumed people did not see him on the way up because it was extremely cold and their hoods and oxygen masks would have severely restricted vision.
"Our people saw David, but assumed that this was the body of the Indian who died in exactly the same place in 1996, and whose body I had told members to expect to see," Brice said.
"In fact David was lying right on top of the Indian when Phurba found him on the descent. Our people saw David and assumed that he was already dead."
Brice found out who the dead man was and although it was not his responsibility, telephoned Sharp's family.
"I told them that we had seen David the day before, and that we had left him even though he was still alive, but in an unrecoverable state, and that he was confirmed dead that morning.
"This was a very hard call to make but something that I felt had to be done."
Brice said had he known on the way up that Sharp was in trouble he would have investigated the possibility of a rescue. Since 1994 he had initiated or been involved with 15 major rescues on Everest.
"During this time I have been responsible for the unenviable job of removing about 10 bodies from the mountain, something that we never mention."
OK are we dealing with a politically correct euphemism here? Does "big" mean he was FAT? Or does "big" mean he was 6'8" 265 lbs?
It is a shame, but they KNEW the risk going up.
Fat people rarely are found climbing mountains, especially difficult climbs like Everest. This individual was probably tall and weighed in excess 200 lbs.
I just have to wonder, in this day and age, if the REAL reason they didn't attempt a rescue was because of the condition of his arms and legs. Perhaps they played God and decided that his "quality of life" wouldn't be "worth it" considering he would probably be a quadruple amputee if he survived.
was the dying guy climbing alone? wierd
Yes, skip Everest. It has become a zoo, way too many unskilled folks with too much money to spend on bragging rights. A blind man climbed it....c'mon, it is no longer the challenge it once was. However, you DO sound like the kinda guy who would enjoy K2.
If his arms and legs were frozen to the elbows and knees, it seems like they could have "made him smaller".
I realize the logic of your reply is compelling. That would not stop, however, someone 'fat' making an illogical attempt on Everest.
Someone would have had to make a careful(?) exam to discern his limbs were frozen. Or perhaps they just could not articulate the joints. hmmm.
Many missing details/facts still.
I too noticed the lack of detail there and went searching. I found two URLs with pictures, for what they're worth:
Not likely. They saved themselves. In such an environment it is impossible to assist anyone down. This is not rock-hopping in the Tetons. Everyone on such a climb is in grave danger. Considering the degree of frost-bite and the likely incoherent state, it would be impossible for several people to get him down without dying themselves. Hillary is a great climber, but in this case I think he spoke ill of a fellow Kiwi before all the facts were in.
People need to stop struggling with the concept that you can get yourself into a situation where others are physically incapable of getting you out. I'm not sure why this is so hard for personal responsibility hawks on this board to understand.
They couldn't rescue him. End of story.
Unfortunately people die in the Himalaya, even at lesser altitudes and on more navigable terrain than the top of the 3rd Hilary Step.
Having been up to the Everest region, at a certain level of altitude and acclimatization every step becomes a fight and a struggle, and the paramount chores are (a) breathing and (b) putting one foot in front of the other. Guides - they struggle too - bear the additional burden of worrying about and assisting their clients.
And that's the bottom line here: the guides who are being accused had to make hard decisions about the survival of their clients versus the survival of a climber who was in near-death state.
By helping the stricken climber, they would also be paying much less attention to their own clients (at altitude, thinking is very sequential and it's a struggle to think clearly and carefully). It's pretty obvious to me that they put their clients first, which was the right thing to do (even if the clients didn't like it or understand it).
You are bad. Now go to your room.
Just tryin to help.....says Jeff Dahmer.
Expect a court challenge from the ACLU.
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