THE CLIMB- Filling in the Gaps [8TH OCTOBER] Last day of climb

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Day 8, October 8

 

 

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We woke to the sun beating down on the tent, which was dangerously dehydrating us, but given our experience yesterday, no one felt the need to wake up early today. As we were packing our things to head back to Base Camp (BC) (5,050m), six Tibetans from the Qinghai Mountaineering Association Search & Rescue team met us on their way up to the official Camp 1 (C1) (5,600m) (we were camped at 5,300m). I knew the man wouldn’t have lasted the night, and it would be a recovery, not a rescue.

 

As we packed, I was aware that four of the fingers on my right hand and a couple on my left were becoming increasingly sensitive to touch, to the point that Julia and Sheena were kind enough to help me pack a lot of my gear for the next few days. This was later confirmed to be frostnip, the first stage of frostbite, which can happen in just 60 seconds. Once you’ve had it, your resistance to the cold is much less. I realised the onset was when my mind was in that “zone”, and I took my gloves off to make those calls for help at Camp 1. 

 

Amidst the obvious air of sadness that was over our camp, one thing I thought quite amusing was that our tent, which we thought on relatively flat ground, was actually at such an angle that Sheena, the smallest in our team woke with the three of us rolled on top of her, and a big space on the other side of the tent.

 

The girls’ tent (Sheena, Julia, Jiji) were extremely grateful to Carl for his care and attentiveness leading us up the mountain, and now also, coming down, when Sheena was especially grateful for his assistance.

There must have been a different, faster way down the mountain, because when we reached BC, the Search & Rescue team were already there with the police entourage and later, the coroner’s vehicle.

We found out that the man whom we discovered at C1 had a driver. Philip and I shook hands with him at Base Camp and chatted briefly while the rest of the team packed our gear. He told us the man had intended to camp with us the night  we camped at 5,300m, but of all the chances he had to communicate this to us, when he was climbing quite close to our team, he never tried to make contact. Frank said at one stage, they were so close, he could have hit him with a rock (if he threw one). 

News reports after the incident revealed that the driver waited anxiously at BC when the man failed to radio back to him, though unfortunately we didn’t see any lights.

We were later informed that he was the vice-president of a mountaineering association of Xinjiang, Qinghai’s neighbouring province. News reports confirmed that the man died of High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE)(fluid build-up in the brain due to prolonged exposure to high altitude; the severest & most life-threatening form of altitude sickness).

 

This experience was surreal, and one that we didn’t expect to have to deal with, on a simple fundraising expedition, by a bunch of office-workers from Australia. I felt as if I had walked straight into one of the climbing novels that I loved reading so much. We feel terrible for the man, we now know to be Yang Ge, and for his family and friends, that he had to spend the last hours of his life alone. We had so many questions that we will never know the answers to.

 

We packed up our remaining things at BC and drove to Xidatan “Truckstop” (~4,000m) for our first proper meal in days.

One the photos shows us all with red weather-exposed noses, as we had to cover up every part of our faces on the mountain, but the tips of our noses would often get missed. It’s probably also from wiping them constantly, lest our nasal dribble turn into icicles, which they did!

It was not until we arrived at Golmud (Chinese:Ge’ermu) (2,800m) that evening that I felt we were well and truly back on safe ground, and the experience behind us.

After a hot shower, our second for the expedition, we shared some street food and a case of hot beer (people don’t really use fridges in Qinghai, with temperatures averaging -5 to 8 degrees). We drank with mixed emotions, but were ultimately and humbly thankful for the safety of our expedition.

 

ON BEHALF OF THE ADVENTURE4AID TEAM, WE’D REALLY LIKE TO SAY A BIG THANKYOU TO CARL AND PHILIP FOR COORDINATING THE EXPEDITION AND TAKING CARE OF US. I HOPE THE MONEY RAISED WILL GO INTO TWO SOLID MOBILE CLINICS WITH UP-TO-DATE EQUIPMENT & STAFF!

  

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One Response

  1. Well done your courageous determined committed group of office workers cum moutaineers, who have gone beyond your calling to put yourselves on the line, facing danger and suffering discomfort in order that the hill people of Qinghai have a chance of receiving mobile medical help in time of need.

    Many who did not go were there backing you all in prayer for safety and health.

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