There were confusing reports between BC and the higher camps, in which it was said that one of the two missing climbers was in trouble, and the other one was back in ABC. The crew down the mountain assumed the sick climber was Marco. The second climber, supposedly in ABC, could have been mistaken for another Italian climber from a different team. Image of the Italian team courtesy of FancyMountain (click to enlarge).
May 19th, the Italians went down leaving Marco at 8,300 meters, allegedly with some of Marios porters. Instead, they asked for help from Russian Serguey Kofanov, a guide with Abramovs 7Summits-Club team, who at the moment was on his way down from the summit. Abramov reported that Serguey had found Marco not in a tent, but lying unconscious on the snow. Image of Serguey courtesy of 7Summits-Club (click to enlarge).
Image of Kofanov rescuing the Italian climber at 8300m on Everest, courtesy of Abramov's 7Summits-Club (click to enlarge).

Everest north side: Sergey Kofanov's rescue debrief and video

Posted: Jun 15, 2007 02:30 pm EDT
( Left behind by his climbing mates, Marco Epis reportedly spent over two days deep in the deathzone at 8,300 meters on Everest's north side. His limbs slowly blackening and his brain bloated by lack of oxygen; the Italian climber was spotted lying helpless in the snow by Abramovs 7Summit Club guide Sergey Kofanov.

The guide himself was exhausted after breaking trail to the summit only hours before. Still, he stopped by the dying man. While a detailed report is still expected from Marcos mates, last week Kofanov sent a debrief to ExplorersWeb about the rescue descent. In an attached video (below) Marco is seen coming to himself in the tent after initial first aid treatment and then being prepared for the descent. Here goes Sergey's debrief:

I noticed a climber lying in the snow

After summiting Everest I stayed at 8,500m for almost one and a half hours, waiting for Sergey Larin who was last in our team. Finally, at about 12:00 am he reported to be safely down the second step. With the most dangerous part of the route down-climbed, I decided I could proceed down to C3 at 8,300m.

My last O2 bottle was almost empty, but I was not too worried - I felt well enough, in spite of having broken trail all night long. At arrival in C3 I found most of my clients had already descended with Sirdar Mingma and other Sherpas. Only Israfil Ashurly and Curt Myers remained in camp.

Approaching my tent, I glanced up the slope and noticed a climber lying in the snow about 15 meters from my camp. He wore no crampons or harness, and his oxygen mask was askew. He didn't answer my questions, but made feeble attempts to sit up, obviously not understanding where he was and what had happened. I checked his backpack and found his summit oxygen canister there with approximately one third left.

A helping hand from a French lady climber

I removed his backpack and O2 mask, dragged him to the tent and put him face down. I administered Dexametazone both doses in my first-aid kit were frozen, and I had to thaw them in my hands. Before heading down, Israfil told me he left behind a full cylinder of oxygen.

An unknown French lady climber approached and handed me a syringe filled with something she explained was Prednizalon. She told me the sick climber was an Italian who had been missing for two days.

"He managed to tell us his name was Marco"

I sorted out the contents of the Italians backpack. Besides the O2 cylinder, I found a picture of his dog, but nothing really useful for the situation. I prepared him for a down carry, aided by the French woman and her climbing mates. Except for a camera, we emptied his backpack while the French lady fetched the man's crampons and harness from his tent, leaving his other belongings behind. Meanwhile the medicals started working; the climber began to tremble and tried to sit up. It took us about ten minutes to get him geared up, and by then he had managed to tell us his name was Marco. Along with coffee, I gave him Diamox and Trental, since his fingers were severely frostbitten.

We pulled him outside, put on his sunglasses and a backpack with an O2 bottle. I tried to make him stand up, but it became clear he wouldnt make it on his own. I clipped him to a fixed rope, and started to carry him down on my back. One hundred meters (300 ft) below I was so exhausted I had to put him back down. Now, the only way to lower him was to drag him down the steep slope, which I did until a sent-for Sherpa arrived.

A shot of Dexametazone straight through Marcos pants

The Sherpa spoke English well and explained that he worked for another Italian expedition, and was ready to help me take the sick climber down. We began to drag him together. After a while, we came across some members in our team on their way to C3 in order to attempt the summit that night."

"I was sure we would manage to get Marco down to 7,700 m and declined their offer to help. I gave Marco a second shot of Dexametazone at the next flat section we found, sticking the syringe straight through his trousers. The French woman climbed along with us carrying 10 meters of rope in order to belay us on the steepest sections.

We continued down. I was virtually carrying Marco on my back, while Mingma Sherpa belayed us. Realizing she wasn't needed anymore, the French woman now went ahead to try and find Marcos teammates in C2.

My vision blurred and I became disoriented

As the climbing path was rather narrow, the most exhausting part was to pass by climbers on their way up. Under the effects of medicines and O2, at least Marco now became somewhat responsive, instead of just letting himself go. To be honest, I was completely wasted by now and had ran out of O2."

"At a 7,900m camp established by HiMex my vision blurred and I became disoriented. We stumbled among the tents and rested up until I came back to my senses. Meanwhile, Russells Sherpas gathered around us, wondering who was rescuing who. At the time, Marco probably looked better than Mingma and I. Unable to speak; we just managed to indicate we needed something to drink.

We asked the expedition for a fresh bottle of oxygen for Marco, and put him on a flow of three liters per minute. We continued our descent but now the track became much worse with rocky outcrops that made dragging Marco impossible.

"I managed to unbutton a tent and drag myself inside"

I had to put him on my back again. My sight faded. By the time we reached C2 I was half-delirious. We couldn't reach our expeditions tents and collapsed in the snow for half an hour. Members from a Korean expedition watched us in surprise and then brought us some tea. Mingma, not feeling as bad as me, went inside one of the Koreans tents, while I managed to unbutton a tent and drag myself inside, leaving Marco out in the snow. Later, Mingma pulled me out of my drowsiness. We had to go on: Marco would perish as soon as his O2 ran out.

Mingma now tied Marco to himself and dragged him down. Meanwhile, I had decided to remain in the tent a little longer in order to regain my senses. I remember some people checking me out and asking where my personal Sherpa or guide was. I probably didn't look too good, but my answer was Go on your way, I am a guide and Sherpa; I dont need help. Surprised, the climbers shrugged and offered me some oxygen.

No common language

After coming to myself about 20 minutes later, I emptied my backpack from a spent oxygen cylinder and some other things, and then continued the descent. I soon caught up with Mingma and Marco, and took the lead belaying them. I noticed that Marco's coordination improved; by the time we approached our camp on 7,000 meters Marco was moving almost without help.

Once in camp we asked our cook Gumbu for hot soup and tea. We placed the Italian in a chair, while I got out and checked on the rest of our summit team. After making sure everything was in order, I returned to Marco and asked him to swallow Diamox and Trental. Unfortunately, he did not speak any English, so neither Maxim Shakirov or I could get any information on what had happened to him."

"By then night had fallen, but Mingma and I decided we shouldn't leave Marco on the North Col. We decided to take him down to ABC. Seeing the guy was practically back to his senses, I told Mingma to set off without me. I planned to start out a bit later and catch up with them, but in spite of setting out only 10 minutes later, I was so physically worn that I didnt meet up with them until at 6,600m, about a 30-minute walk away from ABC.

A Sherpa from the Italian expedition met us with a thermos of hot tea. I asked Mingma to visit our camp the next morning and then went on my way. Unfortunately, the next day one of our own member's condition forced and early descent to BC and I never saw Mingma again."

Download VIDEO from the initial part of the rescue (WMV 4.6MB)

Italys Spirito Libero team member Marco Epis spent over two days at 8,300 meters suffering from frostbite and HACE. His climbing mates left him behind on May 19, reportedly too tired to help. Marco's climbing mate Pierangelo Maurizio was last seen on his way to the summit on May 17. He was reported missing several days later - his body was never found.