Everest rescue saves the life of the Australian climber in the deadliest season on record


Everest is majestic, seductive, unforgivable and dangerously crowded.

In recent decades, the highest peak on earth has become the peak of tourists with “deposit list”. If you’re rich enough and reckless enough, you can join the queue to get Instagram to shoot the rooftop of the world.

Many of these charged adventurers are unskilled and unprepared and make the ascent increasingly dangerous for experienced climbers like Gilian Lee.

Gil wanted to conquer Everest and was determined to do it on his own terms, without oxygen. It was a decision that almost cost him his life.

Gil grew up dreaming of climbing Everest. He may be a public servant who lives and works in Canberra, but leads a bold double life. This was his fourth attempt against Everest and he was ready for the challenge.

He did not climb the mountain alone. Two sherpas, Kalden and Tensing, were by his side. But from the beginning, they were worried.

“I told Gil that I think without oxygen it’s very difficult,” Kalden told Matt Doran of Sunday Night. “To [a] xerpa [it’s] it is also very difficult without oxygen and, for customers, it is more difficult. “

There is an area towards the top of Mount Everest which they call the death zone. Due to altitude, the body begins to die: the brain and lungs are hungry for air, the heart rate explodes and every breath feels like it is passing through a straw.

“The more time you spend in the death zone and the more, the more punished you will get,” Gil explains. “Eventually, it’ll just go off again and the brain will go off. That’s what happened to me.”

Gil chose to try the difficult northern slope of Everest, on the Tibetan side of the mountain, and there is good reason. The south face, on the Nepalese side, has become hopelessly saturated, with up to 200 climbers at a time queuing on the way to the summit.

Mountaineer Nirmal ‘Nims’ Purja took a photo of a line of conga climbers, which went viral around the world. For Nimms, the tail was just an irritation. “I was stopped for at least four hours on the way to the top and three and a half hours downhill,” he explains.

For the less experienced climbers, this long, serpentine line of trembling humanities can be deadly. “A climber died nearby and the rescue did not [go] smooth for traffic, ”Nims recalls.

“Overcrowding is a real problem,” Gil explains. “Particularly when you have people who have never been up in their lives. And what do I mean by inexperienced? The person will basically depend on their sherpa one hundred percent.” Oh, my hands are cold. “” Here, put on your gloves. “No, you should know how to get your ass up the mountain technically. It’s so basic.”

On the north side of the mountain, Gil begins his ascent. It has a perfect climate for climbing and there are no queues. But at 7,600 meters, and with the summit just over a mile away, Gil struggles to breathe.

“His cough is bad,” Kalden recalls. “He said, ‘I’m fine,’ but he coughed hard [his] the color is blue, not pink, and I said “I think it’s not that good.”

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How do you say no? How do you cancel your dream?

Gil knew he was fighting, but he was determined to get to the top. “I was sick, very sick. [I had] massive chest infection trying to climb a mountain. If you’ve already reduced oxygen, half your lung intake, you’re really exceeding the limits. But it’s a bit like peak fever. How do you say no? How do you cancel your dream? “

The two Sherpas tell Gil that they should go back, but he won’t listen.

“I’m a stubborn bastard, okay, let’s be honest about it,” Gil admits. “I just committed about a month and a half of my life on my last real, good, genuine attempt, with a great outing on Everest.”

“I started pushing up and my body went off because [of] lack of oxygen. Apparently, I fainted for three hours or so, and my sherpas dragged me back to my tent. “

In just two weeks, 11 climbers died in their conquest of Everest. Matt Doran talks to Australians who cheated death in the Himalayas.

Gil’s life is now in the hands of his two guides Sherpa, Kalden and Tensing.

“They threw me in a sleeping bag, they got all the hot water bottles they could, they threw them near the arteries, they just tried to keep my body warm,” Gil says. “But they said he was on the edge.”

Now there is no other remedy. The two Sherpas must make Gil go down the mountain; a technically demanding rescue was seldom attempted at this altitude.

“Maybe 10, 15 minutes if we stay higher, maybe I think he won’t be alive,” Kalden believes.

Many hours downhill, the Sherpas are desperate and fighting. Then, with an extraordinary stroke of luck, they stumble upon a Chinese rope-fixing equipment. They tie Gil to a mat to turn him into a makeshift sled.

Although Gil does not remember the details, he knows the procedure well. “You want to wrap your body so that it’s as rigid as possible, so you can move the suction cup through the rock sections. It’s like a corpse. It can sound terrible, [but] that’s what you have to do “.

The next few hours turn into an epic ordeal of endurance as rescuers slide Gil down the mountain.

Finally, they arrive at base camp at 6,400 meters where team leader Arnold Coster awaits. Gil is semiconscious and his lungs fill with blood.

“It didn’t look very good,” Arnold explains. “But he’s stubborn, mostly because he wants to go up without oxygen.”

“Statistics don’t lie about people going up without oxygen. About 30%, if they stay out of oxygen [don’t] survive, so that’s a bad statistic. Most people quit smoking, but Gil is not a person like that, and that’s why it went wrong. “

For Arnold Coster, the sight of the next Gil, lifeless, brings back terrible memories. Three years ago, he led an expedition to Everest that ended with the death of Australian Marissa Strydom.

“Of course, that’s left for me,” he says sadly. “Every time I think of her.”

Now Arnold fears he is about to lose another climber. Gil’s condition is getting worse.

“[He was] coughing up a mixture of infection and blood, constantly coughing up slime, “Arnold recalls.” This is extremely dangerous. Such a person, you do not want to follow the 6,400 meters. The only way to cure it is “no”.

They have to take Gil to a hospital and fast. Now that the snow and ice have run out to slide, it is again an almost impossible task to lift Gil onto this rocky terrain.

“That’s when they tied me to the back of a yak,” Gil says. “The most awkward journey known to mankind. I was just luggage. My legs were tied like a turkey. It was just pure agony and pain.”

The yak takes about six hours to cover 22 miles up the mountain. They finally reach the Tibetan border and cross into Nepal. From there, there are still 20 minutes by helicopter to Kathmandu.

“He’s very lucky and I think he’s slowly starting to realize that,” Arnold believes.

Sitting in a wheelchair at a Kathmandu hospital, Gil begins to understand the extent to which he died on the mountain and what role he played in the drama.

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If it weren’t for those guys, I would have been frozen in a mountain right now.

“Sometimes he makes the right call, sometimes he makes the wrong call,” Gil says. “In that case, let’s be honest, I made the wrong call. If it weren’t for those guys, I would have been frozen in a mountain right now.”

Gil’s mother, Julie Peck, went to Kathmandu to help care for her son.

“You keep advising him, saying,‘ Please don’t. When you do, you are very selfish. Don’t think about the rest of the people you will leave behind. How are you? to collect the pieces? And he turns around and says, “I’m coming back down alive or I’m not coming back down at all.” He says, ‘I have to accept it and you have to accept it too.’ “

What bothers Julie even more is that Gil’s attempt at Everest without oxygen endangered other lives, even though she didn’t realize it at the time.

“No father should go through what my mother has gone through,” Gil says. “I don’t want to do that, you know.”

In just two weeks, 11 climbers died in their conquest of Everest. Matt Doran talks to Australians who cheated death in the Himalayas.

Three days after coming down from the mountain, Gil can sit down and welcome visitors. His guides Sherpa, Kalden and Tensing, have come to visit him.

Gil’s recovery is remarkable, and he has these two men to thank.

“They’re my Sherpas. That’s all, simple and straightforward,” Gil explains. “That’s why they hire good sherpas. They hire good sherpas so they can technically take their ass up the mountain if something goes wrong. They did a good bloody job. [I’m] very respectful of that. [They] it saved my life, simple and easy. “

Much of the last week is nebulous for Gil: the climb, his sudden illness, and that unlikely rescue at the back of a yak. Now you have the opportunity to fill in some of the blanks. Looking at photographs and videos of the events, Gil realizes how close he came to die on the mountain.

He is also overwhelming for his mother Julie. The Sherpas gave him a gift he will never be able to pay. “These Sherpas, I will be eternally grateful to them. Nothing to say, by far [I say] “thank you,” will not be enough. Yes [wasn’t] for the two Sherpas with him, he [wouldn’t] be here today “.

But will a mother’s love be enough to keep Gil from risking everything again?

“No,” Gil admits. “Life isn’t about saying,‘ Okay, I’ve hit a rock, I’m just going to turn my ass, tail between my legs, and run home somewhere safe. ’No, it’s just readjusting. , modify the risk and reassess the risk “.

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I am an honest person. I will say that it is a pending issue.

“I’m an honest person. I’m going to say it’s a pending issue.”

Deep down, his mother knows nothing will stop him. “It has been raised many times, [with] accidents and rescued many times, and still goes back. I’m telling you the truth: when he recovers slowly and as soon as he thinks he has the strength, he’ll bounce back. [in his mind] again: “How do I get back to Everest?” Until this guy tops Everest or until Everest claims him, he’ll be back. “

Still recovering from his experience, Gil explains that what you do with your time is really important. “Everyone dies, okay. That’s how you live.”


Mountaineer and filmmaker Nirmal ‘Nims’ Purja hopes to climb the 14 peaks of the 8,000-meter Himalayas. To support it, visit their GoFundMe page.