5 de May. de 2014
Doch sollten Sie zu Grabe gehen,
so lohnt der Tugend
nehmt sie in euren Wohnsitz auf!
I no longer see Makalu in the same way as when I arrived. Everything has changed and I will have to rebuild my motivation from the beginning.
Before coming here, Makalu had been my favourite 8,000m-peak. My memories of attempting the West Pillar had converted Makalu into a temple of the most genuine values of mountaineering. I clearly remember climbing to 7,600 metres on the beautiful red rock of the West Pillar, which over time had proven to be the most amazing place I had ever been to.
Makalu is also linked to the legendary French climbers Lionel Terray, Jean Couzy, Yannick Seigneur. “It’s the mountain of the French!” I said to Yannick Gagneret when I bumped into him at Advanced Base Camp (ABC). The last time I had seen him was exactly a year ago when we shared a base camp on Lhotse. I did not know that he was also attempting Makalu this year, so I was pleasantly surprised to see him here.
However, the 2nd of May was the day that changed my view of this mountain. We had just spent an exhausting night at Camp 2 (7,400 m). Yannick had pitched his tent right next to the fixed rope, about 200 metres away from us and in a place, where we could not see him.
Details will be brief, however, the fact is that the Australian climber, Ralph Schweizer and I did our utmost best in horrific weather and dangerous steep, slippery terrain to assist Yannick over a 5 hour period down to camp 1 after he started showing obvious signs of cerebral oedema. After we had given him two lots of medication and we began the long descent at 10am.
Once out of the tent, Yannick was unable to stand up or take a single step, and I think he had realised the gravity of the situation. The terrain was the worst for a rescue. The ground we covered was diagonal, mixed terrain, with hundreds of short terrace like steps, not just vertical. Even though he was very tired, Yannick did his best to assist our rescue efforts, sliding down mostly on his backside.
Ralph and I made a good rescue team; although we were both physically and mentally exhausted, having barley eaten, drank or slept over the previous 24 hours and even though neither of us were fully acclimatised, we co-ordinated well. We constantly encouraged Yannick, who, at the time, was fading in and out of consciousness and did his best to follow our repeated and persistent orders.
At around 12:30pm, we reached the bottom of the middle snow field, and Yannick seemed pretty stable. At that point, he had neither improved nor deteriorated much and I was very happy that the Sherpas of the different agencies (Himalayan Guides, Seven Summits and Himalayan Ascent) were taking over some of the rope handling responsibilities. We coordinated the rescue via radio with Dr. Joe of Himalayan Experience, who was at ABC, and Chris Warner at Camp 1.
We still had to negotiate the final rock band above Camp 1 (6700m). Due to terrain and the bitter cold and heavy snow falls, our rescue efforts had slowed down significantly and lowering Yannick had become increasingly difficult. The weather had worsened and I could not stop shivering from cold and exhaustion. At about 3pm, we reached the point just above Camp 1 (6,700 m), where Chris Warner, Dan Jenkins and Lakbah were waiting for us with oxygen and a make shift stretcher. In my state of exhaustion, I gave Chris (an old friend of mine and impressive American) a huge hug. Shortly afterwards, Ralph and I also fell into each other’s arms to form an emotional hug, which I will never forget. Ralph and I had given our best and I think that on this 2nd of May, I lived through one of the hardest experiences of my life as a climber. Nothing compares to the looks of anguish that we had exchanged between ourselves and with Yannick over those previous 5 hours. Nothing compares to the effort we made in lowering Yannick down about 50 pitches, each one metre by metre. No rock climb I have ever done, no metre of soft snow I have ever stepped on will compare to the difficulties faced by the three of us as we came down from camp 2 that day.
Sadly, somewhere between Camp 1 and ABC, Yannick passed away. I still cannot fathom what happened that day and I still do not feel at peace with myself. I feel like the doctor, who could not save the life of his patient. Yannick was my friend, and today, a few days later, I am still haunted by doubts and self-reproach of what happened so suddenly on that life changing day.
I do not want to add more. I just want to thank all the people, who helped in this rescue, which was more or less everyone at Makalu Advance Base Camp. I especially would like to offer my condolences to the friends and family of Yannick Gagneret.
For me, Makalu is no longer the same. Someone once said that while the world keeps on turning in other places, here it stands still. And that is true, even though it is against our will. Climbing mountains, is more a question of re-starting the clock that has stopped, rather than being a strong climber. And despite the support of many people, getting this clock going again is most of the time a very lonely experience.
Thanks to Billi and Ralph for their help with this Spanish-English translation.