Kathmandu, April 29
A Sherpa climber who guided Wui Kin Chin, a Malaysian doctor, to the top of the world’s tenth highest mountain, today said the climber could survive above Camp IV on Mt Annapurna because he gave him his oxygen cylinder.
Nima Tshering Sherpa, the only climbing guide of Kin Chin, told THT that the 49-year-old climber fell unconscious while descending from the summit of the 8,091-metre peak on Tuesday evening.
“We were the last of the more than 30 climbers to reach the summit that day,” he said, adding that they took a few photos on the summit before descending to Camp IV at around 5:00pm.
According to him, the descent turned out to be more perilous and difficult as the Singapore-based senior anaesthesiologist fell unconscious and stopped moving below French Couloir.
He said Kin Chin had a satellite phone, but he could not make an emergency SOS call.
As Kin Chin ran out of supplemental oxygen near French Couloir, Sherpa gave his tank to him. “It was my duty to save his life, so I gave him my oxygen.” Kin Chin had two tanks of supplemental oxygen, while Sherpa kept one cylinder with him.
“After parting with one cylinder of oxygen, I also started experiencing severe headache and shortness of breath as the air is too thin at an altitude of 7,750m,” Sherpa recounted.
Sherpa said he struggled for over five hours in extreme weather to descend to Camp IV. “I suffered frostbites on my toes and neck, and spinal injuries while descending,” the guide added.
Fellow climbers, who met Sherpa at Camp IV at around 12:30am in the middle of the night, said they noticed symptoms of high altitude cerebral edema on him. After returning to Kathmandu, Sherpa was hospitalised for two days.
After being exposed to sub-zero temperature for nearly two days above Camp IV, Kin Chin was evacuated from Annapurna base camp to Kathmandu-based Mediciti Hospital on Friday. The climber, whose health is said to be critical, was airlifted to Singapore for treatment yesterday.
Earlier, the 31-year-old from Khumjung in Solukhumbu district had guided Kin Chin on Mt Everest and Mt Manaslu. “Based on his past experience, Kin Chin chose me as his climbing guide on Mt Annapurna,” Sherpa, who has climbed Mt Everest, Mt K2, Mt Manaslu and Mt Annapurna, said.
Sherpa, who lost his father to cancer two years ago, said he had to climb mountains to support his poverty-stricken family. The sole bread earner of the six-member family said he, along with his 70-year-old mother, wife and two daughters, 9 and 3, spent most of the time in remote Khumbu village. “My eldest daughter, now 11, became a nun a few years ago as I couldn’t afford to send her to school,” he said.
“I pray for Kin Chin’s speedy recovery,” he said, claiming that a delay in activating search and medical evacuation missions resulted in the worst situation. “The level of damage and risk to Kin Chin’s life may have been avoided, if the emergency rescue and insurance companies had acted quicker,” he claimed.
A version of this article appears in print on April 30, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.