Dhaulagiri inferno: Air Rescue Mission debrief

Posted: May 21, 2010 01:59 am EDT

Last week a Chinese expedition hoped to summit Dhaulagiri May 13 on the peak's 50th anniversary. The fourteen people party set out in increasing wind. Other expeditions reported that the team lost two tents, reached the summit by nightfall and had to force a bivouaq through the stormy night.

An inferno ensued and three climbers lost their lives. Fishtail Air and Air Zermatt rescued the survivors using two different approaches; human sling operation and hovering.

Here goes their report.

16-05-2010 Air Rescue Mission on Dhaulagiri

On May 16th the Himalayan air rescue team a cooperation of Nepalese Fishtail Air and
Swiss Air Zermatt - rescued seven climbers from Dhaulagiri mountain in Nepal.

Short after the call was received May 15th at around 5 a.m., the rescue helicopter (AS350 B3) started from Kathmandu Airport. Arrived at the scene, the rescuers found that 8 Chinese mountaineers and 6 Sherpas were stuck in camp 3 at 7300 meter - and maybe even higher.

In two reconnaissance flights, 8 people were located. They were exhausted and only very slowly descending in the direction of camp 2. Unfortunately the weather was too bad to carry out a rescue mission.

6 climbers airlifted

The next morning (May 16th) two helicopters started from Pokhara to base camp. It became clear that 3 Sherpa's and 1 Chinese climber had arrived in base camp, leaving a total of 11 people on the mountain.

During the approach the rescuers saw 2 people climbing down, just below camp 1. They were able to descend on their own. Between Col Ne and camp 1 at around 5900 meters one mountaineer was waiving for help.

He was evacuated by the helicopter hovering short above the ground. In Col Ne (6100 meter) 2 other climbers were evacuated by the hovering helicopter. Subsequently a rescuer was brought to a location just below camp 2, by sling operation.

3 mountaineers were blocked after one of them was not able to walk anymore. These climbers were evacuated by sling operation and brought down to Col Ne, whereupon they were flown to base camp.

Three climbers lost

To rescue the climbers still higher up the mountain (they were likely somewhere around camp 3) the idea was to bring well acclimatized Sherpas up to camp 2 by sling operations.

Short after the first Sherpa was flown to camp 2, the rescue team heard over the radio from base camp that nobody was in camp 3 any longer. Two Chinese mountaineers presumably lost their way in a whiteout and fell down. One climber died at around 8000 meter, most likely after suffering a high altitude edema. The rescue mission was thereupon aborted.

The five wounded Chinese mountaineers were flown to hospitals in Pokhara and Kathmandu. Some of the Sherpas suffered light frostbites but could be treated in base camp. The rescue mission was carried out by both the Nepalese and Swiss crew.

Air Zermatt from Switzerland is trying to establish a long lasting training program to transfer the knowledge of high altitude helicopter rescue to the Nepalese crew of Fishtail Air. To cover the costs of this trainings, Air Zermatt and Fishtail Air are searching for sponsors.

Since the beginning of the current season, the new rescue service has performed rescue operations at altitude on Manaslu, Annapurna, Dhaulagiri and a number of 6000er and 7000ers.

#Mountaineering #Air

courtesy Air Zermatt / Firshtail Air, SOURCE
C2 on Dhaulagiri.
courtesy Air Zermatt / Firshtail Air, SOURCE
Nepalese rescuer Purna Awale just above Col NE on Dhaulagiri.
courtesy Air Zermat t/ Fishtail Air, SOURCE

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