Mt. Everest: Rescue in the Death Zone

Mt. Everest was a collaboration with premiere Canadian guiding company, Peak Freaks.  Our successful summit bid included two rescues in the Death Zone and made international news in Men’s Journal, Outside, Explorer’s Web, etc.  In the end, adventures aren’t about conquering big oceans or big mountains.  They’re about braving a journey of the human spirit.

I have enduring respect for Tim & Becky Rippel’s Peak Freaks Expeditions and the sherpas who risked their lives not only for the summit, but to save other climbers’ lives. I was fortunate to have medical training and rescue skills to contribute to the team but it is one’s character that is tested in extreme environments. Our team pulled off what many said was impossible. Instead of stepping over 2 different climbers in peril and returning to base camp with our successful summits in hand, we short-roped those in distress back to safety. 36 hours post-summit with no oxygen while assembling rescue supplies in Camp IV (26,000 ft / 7925 m) I finally hit the wall. Rolling up a sleeping bag for a downed climber still stuck on the South Col suddenly became one of the hardest tasks of my life. My body was screaming for me to surrender to sleep inside the safety of my tent. No one would blame me if this was my limit. Our team had done more than enough. But my teammates – guides and sherpas alike – were cut from a different cloth. They were relying on me to keep going, to finish the job no matter how small it might seem. It may sound like a terrible predicament, but it was one of the best times of my life. After surviving the night below the Balcony the downed climber stumbled back into Camp IV leaning heavily on his rescuers. The first thing he said was, “That sleeping bad saved my life.” I smiled, pointed to the sherpas and guides and replied, “No, these guys did.”

*Side note: Many years ago, I had the opportunity to meet the Dalai Lama and learn firsthand about the struggle for Tibetan self-determination. Speaking out on this issue was also a big part of my climb.