Everest Peace Project debrief: Lance's story of 10 summits and a rescue

Posted: Aug 11, 2006 01:37 pm EDT

(MountEverest.net) On May 17, 2006 Everest Peace Project leader Lance Trumbull reported his team members were in Camp 3 on Everests north side, ready to leave for the summit. Dispatches were expected on the climbers progress across the upper sections but there was no news for nearly 24 hours.

10 on top everyone OK

Finally on May 18, there came news from Lance: 10 members (foreign climbers and Sherpas) had reached the summit earlier that day. I apologize for not updating sooner but our climbers are still on the way down the mountain at various camps and I did not want to publish anything before I had physically seen that everyone was okay, Lance wrote.

On May 20, EPPs website was updated once again. This time with a summit video, and the promise of a more detailed report in the next few days.

Meanwhile, rumors spread from Everest to the climbing community worldwide. Something had gone wrong with the team. No official statement was made though, and questions were left unanswered.

It took ten days until the story of the teams summit day, and the long night that followed, was published. South African team member Selebelo Selamolela had been helped down in a critical rescue operation.

Reasons for the silence

On May 31, Lance Trumbull reported his version of what happened, and his reasons for not informing anyone earlier.

I did not want this story written until the principal participants were able to write it themselvesbut I have since had pressure to get something out to the world and so I will write an incomplete account of what transpired on the nights of May 18th and May 19th, Lane wrote.

My main reason for not saying anything immediately was that I was concerned about Seles friends and family and did not want to say anything until I knew what was really happening. I also did not want to create media chaos where there did not need to be any. We took care of the rescue and handled it extremely well and there was a happy ending I did not think it was anyone elses business what went on except those closest to us at least until an accurate account could be made.

Nor did I feel it was my responsibility to the world to let them know that a rescue had taken place. Honestly, I felt my responsibility was to my team and not to the media or to anyone else.

The rescue Lances account:

"At 10:20 am Selebelo Selamolela became the 10th member of the EPP team to reach the summit and only the second black African to summit Everest. Although I was at advanced base camp (I was by the radio the entire time organizing and providing moral support) I felt as if I was on top of the world! I was already frantically typing a potential dispatch: EPP summits 10 I thought would be a good title."

"But my happiness was short-lived"

"At approximately 11 am I got a radio call from the EPP climbing director Jamie McGuiness. It shocked me and made my blood curl. Seles fuckedhe was on a one-way trip... What?! I exclaimed? What do you mean? Seles gone hes exhausted and is not moving

I dont think we can get him down

"I sat there speechless and motionless shock entered my bodyit seemed like an hour had passed, but it had only been a few seconds. The Sherpas on the radio in the background yelling back and forth awoke me. And then Jamies voice came on again I dont think we can get him down

This is not really happening, I kept thinking to myself. Sele is a devout Christian probably the most religious out of all of us if God was going to save anyone, it would be him, I thought."

"It was around 1pm when Jamie radioed again: Sele was on his buttscooting along inch by inch but this would not get him down as he has plenty of difficult and tricky terrain that he still has yet to cross and he could only do this under his own power and on his own feet."

Problems with Oxygen

"One hour later Jamie came on the radio again: Sele may have been under reduced flow oxygenwe sorted out some kinks in his hoseswe will see what happens. This was encouraging news as Sele immediately started feeling better and was now walking under his own power. For the first time in hours I heard some good news and I started to get a feeling that things may turn around."

"Untilmore frightening news came over the radio Sele had fallen near the Third Step for a few seconds I did not know if he was alive or deadbut Jamie then reassured me he had miraculously recovered and had gotten up and was moving again!"

"Next radio call came at 3pm - Sele was now moving and moving fairly well. Jamie now said that he thinks they have a slight chance of getting him down. I am happy but cautiously optimistic knowing that things could turn at any moment."

Sherpas up to help at the Second Step

"At about 4pm Jamie called from the Second Step: Sele is now starting to descend the Second Step and Namgyal Sherpa (who had summited earlier in the day) has gone back up from camp 3 (8300 meters 27,000 feet) all the way up to the Second Step he is now with Sele helping him down!

"Then Chris Klinke radioed from camp 3 that Goomba Sherpa, working with Project Himalaya had gone up with oxygen, tea and snacks to meet Sele and the rest of the team on the mountain."

"At 5pm (or was it 6pm?) Jamie called and said they were descending the First Step and things were starting to look better and better for Sele."

"Sometime around 9pm Jamie, Namgyal, Sele, Dawa Gelje, and Goomba reached camp 3 (8300 meters 27,000 feet) and relative safety. Jamie and Namgyal put Sele on oxygen and to bed. Jamie later would tell me that Sele cried all night from the pain."

By the way, where is Dudu?

"I got ready for bed again sleeping by the radio in the dining tent, feeling much better knowing that Seles chances of survival have greatly improvedAnd then I realize that I had not heard from Dudu since the summit early in the morning."

"Dudu was the strongest on our team and reached the top before anyone else. I had supreme confidence in Dudus climbing and mountain skills and was confident that he was okay; however, I had not made radio contact with him in twelve hours and now with all that was going on I was really starting to worry about Dudu. I tried to reach him but was unableit was going to be a long sleepless night for me. I could only imagine what horrors Sele was going through at that moment."

The Dilemma: Publish or not? Publish what?

"And then there was the website and the dispatch that I had written (but not posted) earliershould I update the website talking about our 10 summits knowing that Sele was out there still in trouble and Dudu was not heard from? I wasnt sure what to do; I had never been in a situation like this do I publish a dispatch without knowing everyone is okay? Do I mention that there was a rescue going on? Do I write that everyone is okay except Sele and maybe Dudu? I had no one to bounce this off of except Ali and so Ali and I discussed the options for awhile and we both agreed that the best thing to do was to delay the dispatch and wait until I heard from Jamie and hopefully Dudu in the morning. Part of me was still worried that Sele could die during the night."

"On May 19 at 7:00am Jamie radioed and said that Sele made it through the night and that he was much better now; I asked if it was okay to update the website with positive news - Jamie agreed and said he really felt Sele would make it back to ABC alive and okay. A few minutes later Dudu radioed to let me know he would be down to ABC soon. I then finally uploaded the summit dispatch 12 hours later than I originally anticipated, that we indeed had a successful summit day and that everyone was now safely on their way back to ABC. I did not mention Seles ordeal as I did not want to worry Seles friends and family; in my mind it would be Sele who would call them himself to let them know what happened. Sele would make it down alive and safe! I was now sure of this in my heart."

Rescue not yet over 15 people helping

"However, it would still be another 14 grueling hours of climbing back to advanced base camp for Sele. Half way through the descent Jamie made the decision that they would need to stretcher Sele through most of the North Col to ABC. Fortunately, Jamie was prepared and had a stretcher waiting. He dispatched Scott Woolums to have a Project Himalaya Sherpa bring it up and they met him along the way near the top of the North Col. The rest of the way Sele was stretchered down at times by a group of up to 15 people (Sherpas and Tibetans) taking turns helping to carry him."

"It was now dark about 9pm and Jamie called that they needed some help with the stretcher me, Ali and a couple of people from Project Himalaya raced up to meet them part way and then we all carried him down to safety."

"Sele was very fortunate (others this year were not so lucky.) It was a complete team effort in which 25 people from The Everest Peace Project and Project Himalaya played a significant role in his rescue."

After the rescue, Sele was treated in Kathmandus hospital and then flown back home to South Africa. He suffered from frostbite in some of his fingers and toes. Team member Micha also had some frostbite on his toes. Sele has not published a report on Project Himalayas website.

Lance Trumbull was responsible for putting together this group of mountain climbers whose faiths and cultures span the globe. In addition to Lance (Buddhist from US) members are: Palestinian Ali Bushnaq (Muslim), Israelis Micha Yaniv and Dudu David Yifrah (Jewish), Indian Gautam Patil (Hindu), US Tonya Riggs and 72 year old Jerry Price (both Christians), South African Selebelo Selamolela (Christian) and co-leader and climbing director New Zealander Jamie McGuinness (Atheist).

The team climbed Everest via the North Col route, with 10 team members reaching the summit on May 18, 2006.

Selebelo Selamolela became only the second black African to summit Everest.

David (Dudu) Yifrah became only the second Israeli to summit Everest (Micha Yaniv soon thereafter became number three). By reaching 7000 meters (23,000 feet) Ali Bushnaq reached higher than other Palestinian.

Everest Peace Project Everest Summiteers were:

1. David Dudu Yifrah - Israel: reached the summit 6:51 am
2 Namgyal Sherpa Nepal: reached the summit 6:51 am
3. Tonya Riggs USA: reached the summit 7:25 am
4. Da Yula Sherpa Nepal: reached the summit 7:25 am
5. Brad Clement USA: reached the summit 7:58 am
6. Lakpa Sherpa Nepal: reached the summit 8:02 am
7. Jamie McGuinness New Zealand: reached the summit 9:35 am
8. Micha Yaniv Israel: reached the summit: 9:35 am
9. Selebelo Selamolela South Africa: reached the summit: 10:20 am
10. Dawa Gelge Sherpa Nepal: reached the summit: 10:20 am


On May 18 at 10:20 am, Selebelo Selamolela became the 10th member of the EPP team to reach the summit and only the second black African to summit Everest. In the image an exhausted Sele on the summit - soon after he would collapse (click to enlarge).
Lance's idea of peace promotion turned out anything but easy. But his perserverance paid off. In the image Israeli David (Dudu) Yifrah displaying the Israeli and Palestinian flags sewed together - courtesy of Everest Peace Project (click to enlarge).
Team leader Lance Trumbull remained in ABC during the team's summit bid. He stood by the radio and provided his mates with moral support. In the image, Lance (click to enlarge).
The Everest Peace Project team joined climbers from different faiths and nationalities. It took Lance four years to find funding for the expedition. In the image, the team during the BC puja ceremony (click to enlarge).
"My fingers were worth the work for world peace we tried to accomplish," African Sele said. (Click to enlarge).

Visit our new website