[Assam] Abandoned on Everest!

Pradip Kumar Datta pradip200 at yahoo.com
Wed May 30 01:51:53 PDT 2007

Abandoned on  Everest!
Sudeshna  Sarkar
T he cry was: ‘‘Oxygen.  Oxygen. I must have oxygen.’’ Winds tossed the desperate cry among the  implacable mountains in the ‘‘Death Zone’’ — the freezing, oxygen-scarce no  man’s land above 8,000 m. But there was no answer.
‘‘I could feel my lungs  bursting,’’ says the wire-thin woman slumped despondently in a chair, both her  feet still in bandages and the right thumb.
‘‘My pack grew too heavy and my  body buckled. Then everything grew black,’’ says Usha Bista, the Nepali woman  who hit the headlines last week after she was abandoned by her teammates on Mt  Everest but was miraculously rescued by a group of Westerners and their Sherpas,  The next memory Usha has is of someone giving her a vigorous massage.
‘‘There  were three of them,’’ she remembers. ‘‘They dragged me down and tried to revive  me. But I couldn't get up.’’
An aerospace engineer with Canadian Air Force,  Meagan McGrath, 29, an unnamed Western male climber and his Sherpa came across  Bista on May 22, at a height of about 8,600 m while they were descending from a  successful summit of the 8,848 m peak. They alerted other climbers below,  setting in motion a Herculean rescue operation.
The 22-year-old — whose  father, a watchman at Ajmeri Gate in New Delhi, died when she was only a year —  was brought up along with nine siblings by her mother, an illiterate peasant  woman in Patheriya village in Kailali district, one of the most backward areas  in Nepal.
The seven-member Democratic Everest Expedition was headed by Ang  Ngima Sherpa, who had summited the peak earlier, Everest legend Ang Rita Sherpa,  known as the Snow Leopard because of his ascent 10 times without bottled oxygen,  and Dorjee Sherpa, with 12 summits to his credit.
‘‘I felt I was in safe  hands,’’ Usha says. ‘‘Even if I couldn’t make it to the summit under my own  steam, they would drag me to the top.’’ However, things turned out different.  When the journey to the summit began, Usha says she was mentally tortured by the  team, who did not cooperate.
‘‘I had hired a Sherpa with my own money,’’ she  says. ‘‘But Kami Sherpa refused to go any further after we reached the last  camp. I have frostbite, he told me. I can’t go any further.’’ She also says Ang  Ngima tried to dissuade her from going any further.
‘‘I was mad,’’ she says.  ‘‘After having spent so much money and effort and having come so close to my  dream, how could I go back? I told them, if no one comes with me, I am going on  my own.’’ She says she had lost her water bottle and asked her teammates several  times to give her water.
‘‘No one listened,’’ she says. ‘‘Then someone said,  you can drink once you get to the summit.’’ When she had climbed up to nearly  8,600 m, Usha could see Ang Ngima summit. Incredibly, he was accompanied by Kami  Sherpa, who had claimed to have frostbite.
The Bistas want unwary climbers to  know about the pitfalls lurking behind expeditions. ‘‘Some of them are into it  to make a quick buck and don’t care what happens to the people with them,’’ they  say.
‘‘Snow Leopard Ang Rita never went beyond the third camp. And Dorjee,  after he had set out with the Democratic expedition, went off with a western  team.’’ Ang Ngima has not contacted the family since the fateful day when he  left Usha in the Death Zone. The phone number he had provided now belongs to  someone else.
Nepal Mountaineering Association, the key agency for  mountaineering, was reported as saying it would undertake an investigation. But  with Nepal’s record of not a single commission having ever dealt justice to  victims, it remains to be seen if the promise is kept. (IANS)

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