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Thread: It's a Small World

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  1. #1
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    Default It's a Small World

    Have you ever met someone you know in a really out of the way place? Perhaps whilst out trekking or half way up a mountain?

    I heard a story the other day, about a driver who got caught speeding for only the second time in his life. The first time in the UK, the second in New Zealand after emigrating there. Doesn't sound very remarkable until you hear he was caught by the very same police officer both times, who had, since issuing the first ticket in England, emigrated to New Zealand himself. http://www.policeprofessional.com/news.aspx?id=11665

    It reminded me of a story of mine.

    In 2004 I went on a trip to climb Ama Dablam. I didn't summit but I'll leave that story until another day. We were a disparate group: one Yank, an Aussie, a Kiwi, myself and an English emigre called Nick, now living in New Zealand.

    Nick's a pretty hard guy, originally from Manchester, with a long list of tough climbs and extreme cave dives. He has cojones the size of basket balls and regaled us with tales of diving unexplored, underwater cave systems, armed with explosives to remove blockages (and I suppose to create room for his cojones too).

    Over the Cho La
    --Over the Cho La heading for Dingboche--

    Anyway, a pretty brutal trek ensued, 25kgs on our backs with stages like Gokyo to Dingboche in one day via the Cho La, next day to Island Peak BC and to the summit and back down to Dingboche the next. Man, it was hard work. Those long stages weren't my idea and they were no fun.

    Over the next few weeks we made our attempt on Ama Dablam.

    Nick was beginning to suffer at this point, he was complaining of cold legs that had no feeling in them. But being the hard nut that he is, he carried on regardless.

    We went up to Camp 1 just below the start of the ridge and Nick looked in agony. He ploughed on but had to stop often and didn't look at all well.


    --Nearly at Camp 1, Nick suffering on a rock--

    When we reached our camp Nick collapsed and we put him to bed in his tent. He wasn't displaying AMS symptoms but nonetheless he looked grim.

    The next day he was in no fit state to continue the climb so he went down, disappointed that his attempt was over, but he wished us luck and we carried on upwards.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Escher

  2. #2
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    Default Re: It's a Small World

    The next few days we went up and down carrying from camp 1 to 2 before preparing for summit day.

    Brewing up at Camp 2
    [Brewing up at Camp 2]

    This mountain was way above my capabilities and my resolve crumbled after a few days so I headed down myself to base camp to drink tea with Nick. He seemed okay but was still complaining of numb legs.

    A day later the rest of the team came down after an unsuccessful summit attempt just as the weather crapped out. We were out of time and so it was time to head downhill.

    We packed up our gear and headed for Pangboche, disappointed but relieved but within an hour Nick had collapsed again and was in absolute agony.

    Going down from Ama Dablam BC
    [Heading down towards Pangboche, before Nick's collapse]

    We phoned our agent in Kathmandu on the satphone and asked for Nick to be evacuated. We reached a tea house in Pangboche and waited, desperately hoping that Nick would be okay.

    Only an hour later the sound of chopper blades filled the valley and all the local children ran to the landing spot. The white Squirrel helicopter landed in the field, sending dust high into the air, and through the cloud walked Ringi our man from Kathmandu.

    He told us that when they had set off from Kathmandu the cloud was low so they headed south to the Terai to pick up the river that would lead to the Dudh Kosi and into Solu-Khumbu. Once higher up they landed in Tengboche, jumped out and asked if we were there, he had misheard Pangboche as Tengboche during the phone call.

    It was incredible that it took only an hour from the time the call was made to finding us here and it was with much relief that we saw Nick fly off to get some medical treatment. Soon after it was very quiet again, the dust settled and we had 2 hours to get to Namche before dark. We were pretty tired and somehow had forgotten what we still had ahead of us as we each fantasised about being back in Kathmandu ourselves, supping a cold beer. Instead we still had the hump back to Lukla in front of us.

    Ringi later told us that they reached Lukla a few minutes later to refuel with only a couple of minutes of fuel left!

    Once we made it back to Kathmandu, we tracked Nick down to a hospital in Patan. He apparently was a medical marvel and had a new type of 'living' gangrene in his knees (whatever that means), it was new to medical science. He had a regular procession of students coming to review his case but it was still not clear if he was going to have to have both of his legs amputated. It seemed that he had suffered deep vein thrombosis in both knees, from his flight from NZ to Nepal. He had been suffering with this throughout the whole trek and only complained when it was really bad. Just underlined what a tough bugger he is! He further underlined that by never complaining whilst in the hospital, instead using his time to chat up the nurses.

    We were all having to leave Nepal soon and all we could do was leave him there, in hospital, with wishes of luck and an unknown prognosis, all crossing our fingers that he would be okay.

    I'll admit, though, it didn't look good.

    Once I was home I tried to email Nick several times but never got a reply. I always wondered what had happened after we left and whether he was okay.

    To be continued...
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Escher

  3. #3
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    Default Re: It's a Small World

    Can't wait for next (3rd) installment of this tale -- it's a cliffhanger!

  4. #4
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    Default Re: It's a Small World

    Yes that was a great read and photos, hurry up with the next bit, did Nick survive?

  5. #5
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    Default Part 2

    So after a trip to Chitwan, an illegal night time safari, a big cat encounter and 24 hours of the squits, it was back home to reality and the world of work. Despite trying several times to contact Nick, I never heard from him again. What had happened to him was always at the back of my mind.

    A year later, after spending a lot of that time trying to convince some friends to come on a trip to Nepal, we decided instead to go to Peru: to Huaraz in the Cordillera Blanca, a mountaineering mecca in the Andes.

    Dawn in Huaraz
    --Huaraz and the Cordillera Blanca--

    As soon as we arrived, my climbing partner Duncan, got a touch of the Peru flu and we waited in town to recover whilst the other two headed into the mountains to try and climb something.

    Mountaineering can be a risky activity and when out of contact with someone you care about who is off climbing, you can't help but worry that they are okay. It is at times like this where the lack of our modern communcation perks are missed. John and Tim had headed off into a valley they none of us had been to before and we were following on behind. Were we likely to find them? And if we couldn't what would we do then? IS it easy to find someone in a huge and deserted glacial valley surrounded by towering peaks? We were about to find out.

    A couple of days later we took a taxi to the roadhead and a lodge called the Way Inn owned by an English couple. After a night of travellers tales and cheap plonk, we shouldered our very large packs and began the back breaking slog into the valley.

    This time we had rope, snow stakes, ice screws, food, camping gear etc as well as all the usual stuff. And our packs were very, very heavy and each step, even on the flat, made us a few mm's shorter. There aren't any fun bits when carrying that much stuff, no opportunities to enjoy the view, just unrelenting, grunting hard work.

    On the way to Llaca with Huaraz far below
    --On the way to Llaca with Huaraz far below--

    As we skirted the contours we turned right into a gorge which was the beginning of the route into the Llaca valley. On our right was a sport climbing area, we thought we might find them there but there was no sign. We hadn't organised a place or a time to meet, we were just hoping we would. This meant that upon every step and around every corner we might suddenly chance upon them. This was wearing enough on the nerves on its own.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Escher

  6. #6
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    Default Re: It's a Small World

    After a full day slog we reached a steepening, where the path meandered up amongst the rocks and just at the start of it we discovered our shared base camp tent, the guys had been here and left it for us and obviously moved on. Grateful to finally stop we brewed up and ate and went into a half sleep, with the nagging thought, of where the hell we were going to find them, keeping a deep sleep at bay.

    _MG_4086
    --Just out from the first camp--

    Next morning over breakfast we decided to pare down our gear to only what we needed for a couple of nights at the next stop. We packed one pack and split it between the two of us. Duncan was still weak from the food poisoning, so full packs taken in would have rendered him unable to climb. Halving our gear at least gave us a fighting chance.

    Leaving the tent as we found it, in case Tim and John came down before us, we headed off uphill.

    Soon after, the trail, if you could call it that, headed up a blank piece of rock, perhaps 30 metres high up to a shelf that looked to be the start of the corrie that the mountains surrounded. To our right was Ranrapalca with mighty glaciers tumbling down its flanks. So our only way in was to start climbing.

    _MG_4114
    --Duncan in front of Ranrapalca's glacier

    Two Spanish speaking climbers wearing plastic boots stood on the middle shelf of this cliff we needed to ascend. They looked stuck and were shouting to us in Spanish, obviously looking for help. Unfortunately we couldn't understand them at all and nor could they understand us. This was a problem. Although I think I could order a beer, a pizza or a taxi with my limited Spanish, climbing instructions are a whole other thing. I tried to explain in single-syllable English and hand gestures that I would climb the rock and throw a rope down to them but they just did not understand, no matter how hard or how long we tried.

    I put my rock shoes on, tied into the rope and headed upwards. I soon discovered that the blank granite was covered in a thin layer of dust. As I got ten metres up, smearing up the holdless slab I became unstuck and started to slide back down again. It wasn't particularly steep, so I turned around to face outwards and slide down on my bum. Duncan's face was a picture as he now expected me to take a proper whipper and face plant on the ledge he was standing on. Fortunately I knew that despite the dust, there was still enough purchase for me to slide down safely. Duncan was only aware of this when I finally got to him. The relief on his face was palpable. A fall onto your belayer with no protection in is not a good thing to do and the incident where I fell climbing and landed on him, breaking my fall, a few months earlier in the Lake District was obviously fresh in his mind. That was a really close call and I was inches away from being badly injured, but fortunately we were both okay.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Escher

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