Nepali Sherpa saves Malaysian climber from Everest ‘death zone’ in ‘very rare’ rescue

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A Malaysian climber narrowly survived after a Nepali sherpa guide hauled him down from below the summit of Mount Everest in a “very rare” high altitude rescue, a government official said on Wednesday.

Ngima Tashi Sherpa walks as he carries a Malaysian climber while rescuing him from the death zone above camp four at Everest, Nepal, May 18, 2023. (Reuters)
Ngima Tashi Sherpa walks as he carries a Malaysian climber while rescuing him from the death zone above camp four at Everest, Nepal, May 18, 2023. (Reuters)

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Gelje Sherpa, 30, was guiding a Chinese client to the 8,849 meter (29,032 feet) Everest summit on May 18 when he saw the Malaysian climber clinging to a rope and shivering from extreme cold in the area called the “death zone,” where temperatures can dip to minus 30 degrees Celsius (86F) or lower.

Gelje Sherpa, who rescued a Malaysian climber from the death zone above camp four, speaks during an interview with Reuters in Kathmandu, Nepal May 31, 2023. (REUTERS)
Gelje Sherpa, who rescued a Malaysian climber from the death zone above camp four, speaks during an interview with Reuters in Kathmandu, Nepal May 31, 2023. (REUTERS)

Gelje hauled the climber 600 metres (1,900 feet) down from the Balcony area to the South Col, over a period of about six hours, where Nima Tahi Sherpa, another guide, joined the rescue.

“We wrapped the climber in a sleeping mat, dragged him on the snow or carried him in turns on our backs to camp III,” Gelje said.

Ngima Tashi Sherpa carries a Malaysian climber while rescuing him from the death zone above camp four at Everest, Nepal, May 18, 2023. (Reuters)
Ngima Tashi Sherpa carries a Malaysian climber while rescuing him from the death zone above camp four at Everest, Nepal, May 18, 2023. (Reuters)

A helicopter using a long line then lifted him from the 7,162-metrer (23,500 feet) high Camp III down to base camp.

“It is almost impossible to rescue climbers at that altitude,” Department of Tourism official Bigyan Koirala told Reuters “It is a very rare operation.”

Gelje said he convinced his Chinese client to give up his summit attempt and descend the mountain, saying it was important for him to rescue the climber.

“Saving one life is more important than praying at the monastery,” said Gelje, a devout Buddhist.

Tashi Lakhpa Sherpa of the Seven Summit Treks company, which provided logistics to the Malaysian climber, declined to name him, citing his client’s privacy. The climber was put on a flight to Malaysia last week.

Nepal issued a record 478 permits for Everest during this year’s March to May climbing season.

At least 12 climbers have died - the highest number for eight years, and another five are still missing on Everest’s slopes.

Read more:

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Nepali sherpa sets Everest record with 27th ascent

More Everest: China, Nepal agree world’s tallest mountain is even higher

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