(Newsdesk) Recently in Pakistan he bagged yet another virgin winter 8000er after which he rushed to Nepal to save everyone else. Here's a new poll for you: Simone Moro is 1. James Bond; 2. Spiderman; 3. Tintin.
Working with Fishtail Air/Air Zermatt as rescue pilot since early May, only two years after he took his heli license in California Italian mountaineer Simone Moro is a huge step closer to his dream of running an air rescue service in Himalaya.
This weekend Moro sent word to ExplorersWeb that the operation has been busy in the past days. The pilots did a lot of rescues and flights, recovered a body and found an empty tent on Thulagi.
The empty tent remains a riddle.
Fishtail/Zermatt swept the 7057 meter Thulagi Peak (Mansiri Himal) in the Manaslu region all weekend for some missing mountaineers but found no signs of life. On Sunday a green tent was spotted at around 6300 meters on the south face. The plane landed and one of the rescuers entered the camp finding only gear and sleeping bags.
Lena Laletina from RussianClimb.com told ExplorersWeb that the Tulagi Bielorussia Expedition had called in regularly over sat phone up but stopped checking in since May 8.
There were 4 climbers in the team; Nickolay Bandalet (leader), Serguey Belous, Serguey Prachakov, and Yuri Sushko. Prachakov and Sushko had left the expedition before the push; leader Nickolay Bandalet and Serguey Belous remained missing.
It's unclear what happened. Simone says some footprints were spotted above the tent, ending by a sharp ridge. A thorough search below and above the ridge came up empty, and so did a ground search of climbing routes in other potential directions.
Simone Moro wants to combine his vast climbing experience with piloting. On Thulagi peak, he believes the men either fell in a crevasse or from the ridge. A Sherpa team in Manaslu BC, not far from Tulagi, are ready to continue the search but Simone advised against it. "The spot was really dangerous," he said, "and a maze of crevasses."
The birth of something new
These air operations are just budding in Nepal.
Lacking proper helicopters and skilled pilots; Himalaya rescue missions generally did not use longlines. Instead, pilots had to land or hover, a challenge for many high-altitude mountainside rescues.
In 2005, the Pakistan Army successfully plucked Slovenian alpinist Tomaz Humar off Nanga Parbats Rupal Face by longline with help from a distance by Air Zermatt. No rescuer was hanging on the longline to assist him though, and the exhausted Humar nearly caused the helicopter to crash when he forgot to unclip his ice screw.
After the failed 2009 attempts to rescue Oscar Perez on Latok and Tomaz Humar on Langtang Lirung, Air Zermatt discussed options for improving rescue systems and reaction times in the Himalayas, using human sling operations originating in the Swiss Alps.
Last year Air Zermatt and Fishtail Air of Nepal joined forces to provide the first Himalayan standby helicopter rescue service in history. A number of remarkable operations culminated on Annapurna in the highest long line rescue ever, honored with the Eurocopter`s 2011 Golden Hour Award in the United States.
Other 2010 rescue and recovery missions were performed on Manaslu, Dhaulagiri and Everest.
The new program hopes to increase safety by ensuring that a longline rescue specialist is available at all times to support the pilot and patient(s).
North Face athlete Simone Moro has climbed Everest four times, and other 8000ers eleven times. The only mountaineer with winter ascents of three 8000 meter peaks; virgin winter summits of Gasherbrum II (in 2011), Makalu and Sisha Pangma; Simone's climbing resume also sports a number of high level technical climbs.
Sky diver and recent heli pilot; working with Fishtail Air Simone is using his climbing skills to explore remote cliffs and corners of the Himalayan peaks to help mountaineers in need.
Thanks to climbers such as Dutch Menno Boermans, Swiss Air Zermatt mountain rescue specialists are once again training Nepalese Fishtail Air this season. In the meanwhile the crew is on standby for emergency.
The team is stationed in Lukla and able to initiate high-altitude rescue attempts within hours of receiving a call. If necessary they fly a so-called "human sling operation", an aerial maneuver originated in the Swiss Alps (1970). The rescuer will be brought to the patient, hanging from the helicopter on a longline, a rope that can be extended up to 200 meters. After doing a quick patient assessment the rescuer will evacuate the climber by clicking the harness onto the longline. In a second rotation the rescuer will be flown of the mountain.
To practice this kind of evacuations, in March 2011 the Nepalese crew underwent special training missions in Switzerland. Air Zermatt's chief pilot Gerold Biner emphasizes that the goal of the Nepal Air Rescue Project is that in the future the Nepalese team can carry out missions by themselves.
Climbers in need, or their insurance, pay operating costs as usual. Due to training costs, Air Zermatt and Fishtail Air are searching for sponsors.
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