Sherpa youth aims to set K2 record after 'highest Everest rescue'

KATHMANDU: “Help us, help us… we are going to die.” They first heard a woman’s voice on their radio transmitter at the South Col on Mt Everest at around 6:00 pm on May 19. Another communication set immediately rang with a man’s cry: "We can’t move…..oxygen is running out!"

Lakpa Sherpa (25) recounted the terrifying moment two climbers faced near the southern summit point at the height of 8,600 metres while they were returning from the summit of the world’s highest mountain this spring.

“I was with Mingma Gabu, Ngima Dorchi, Bhaila and Ngima Wangdi at Camp IV when two climbers sought an urgent help,” Lakpa told THT Online in Kathmandu. "As we were there for a rescue mission, the team immediately headed up to the mountain to track the trapped climbers," he added.

"After three hours of struggle, we found two climbers - Chetana Sahu (43) from Odisha’s Cuttack district in India and Phurba Sherpa – who were struggling for life at around 9:30 pm.”

Both climbers were in a very bad form while their supplementary oxygen was also running out, he shared, adding that his team changed their oxygen and started taking them down to the South Col.

“At around 2:00 am on the next day, we successfully brought them down to our camp,” he informed, adding their hands and ankles were paralysed due to the excessive cold.

In the history of Mt Everest climbing, Lakpa and the team conducted the first ever successful rescue from the "death zone" as the rescued climbers said they got the second lease of life.

“Rescuing climbers above 8,000 metres is almost an impossible task,” he said adding: “But, we did it.”

The team which provided rescue support to over 50 climbers and high altitude workers had taken them down to Camp III on May 20 and the duo were airlifted to Kathmandu from Camp II the next day.

According to Mingma Sherpa, owner of Seven Summits Trek, the rescue team was mobilised by his company in the season and was coordinated by Tashi Lakpa Sherpa, First Vice-President of Trekking Agency Association of Nepal, from the Everest Base Camp.

“It was really a proud moment for me to lead the rescue team that conducted the first ever highest rescue in the season,” he said, before leaving for Pakistan to attempt climb the world’s second highest peak K2.

Lakpa said his team also conducted a rare rescue above Camp II on the Mt Everest saving lives of Slovakian climbers Vladimír Štrba and Zoltán Pál on May 10.

Only two members of the ‘Everest Hard Way Utmost Expedition – 2016’ were trapped in an avalanche that hit the south-west face of Mt Everest at 7,200 metres after they decided to attempt to climb the Mt Everest this season from the south-west face, a rare route used by South Korean climber Young Seok Park seven years ago.

The Indian woman Chetana with her husband Pradip Chandra (45) have already returned to India after treatment and they have also become the first Odisha couple to have successfully reached the summit of Mt Everest, Liaison Officer Shiv Bahadur Sapkota said.

“The successful rescue on Mt Everest has further energised me to set another record on Mt K2 (8,611 m)” Lakpa who already climbed the "killer mountain" twice said.

Lakpa aims to be the single climber to have reached the summit of K2 thrice at the age of 25.

None of the climbers so far has scaled K2 more than two times.

Jamling Bhote (52) and Mingma Dorchi (44), who also scaled the world's most difficult mountain twice, have already left for the K2 to make their climbing attempts.

“I will try my best to be the youngest K2 summiteer,” Lakpa, who scaled the peak in 2012 and 2014, said.

According to climbing records, born in Makalu VDC-9 Sankhuwasabha district, Lakpa has summitted the Mt Everest four times including a summit from the north side.

He has stood atop the summits of Mt Makalu, Mt Manaslu, Mt Dhaulagiri and Mt Amadablam three times each.