Stories from the summits

Deaths in the mountains most commonly result from underestimating the risks. Sharing your experience might just save someone else's life. Click here to submit your account of any altitude illness.

Himalayan Rescue

The evacuation of my friend and colleague was certainly epic. She went from ok to really ill in about 10 minutes (3900 metres) . It was about 8.00pm. We were in a valley separated from the nearest village (Mulbeck at 3200 Metres) by a pass (Sapi-la 4500 metres) that required a 700 metre ascent by dirt track. So to get her down we had to go up. We were travelling with a bunch of buddhists who had no idea about Hace or Hape or AMS. They did have a cylinder of O2. I figured that I would administer the oxygen as we climbed over the pass.

As we set off I turned on the cylinder. I had made the serious mistake of not checking the cylinder first although it wouldn't have made any difference in the end. It was empty. I was really scared but forced to press on. She screamed at every bump. We had to stop every 100 yards or so and wait for her to settle down. Very slow progress. As we ascended she became very quiet. Deteriorating I think. It took 2.5 hours to reach the top of the pass.

As we descended the other side she improved dramatically. We then stayed in a house in Mulbeck where she slept for 2 days and made a good recovery. It was a tough call - should we have stayed at 3900 metres or should we have risked going higher in order to get her down to 3200 metres. I still don't know whether I made the right call. But she was very ill - huge vomiting everywhere, massive headache, lost it emotionally and needed assistance to stand up and walk to the toilet. Thank goodness she is ok now.