Trevor Stokol and other missing Everest trekkers: About survival and mountain dogs

Posted: Aug 02, 2005 07:52 pm EDT

"Wed, 13 July: I am walking to Mount Everest tomorrow, to get some good pictures and play on glaciers. And then... I'M COMING HOME on August 1st. I'm having a slideshow open house on the afternoon of August 7th, so if you're in Dallas, come on over. There will be tea.

Here's to living dreams!!
Trevor"

With this final message, Trevor left for Everest BC, and was never heard from again. <cutoff>Yesterday, his mother posted a message on the designated website that a helicopter went out the day before and "was so low that they could identify garbage on the ground and know what it was". But there was no sign of Trevor, no tracks, no "stuff"...nothing. "They landed at the local village and the villagers told them that there had been an avalanche on that Friday in the exact area that Trevor was going to explore."

<b>Lost in the Himalaya in winter - survived for 41 days</b>

The family and a search and rescue coordinator are now heading to Nepal, to aid in the search. It's too soon to lose hope, as it seems that Trevor had some "survival skills" to help him stay alive if nothing actually killed him. Time is now of essence. In 1991, James Scott became lost in the Himalaya in winter and survived for 41 days at an elevation of 3000 meters by eating only snow.

The following account was written by James G. Scott (today an MD), 1 September 1997 for the medical evaluation site annals.org:

<b>"I trained as many as 10 hours per week"</b>

"When my ordeal began, I was 22 years old. I had come to Nepal from Australia 5 weeks before to do my senior year elective for medical school and to hike in the Himalaya. Several months before leaving home, I had become engaged. At home, in addition to studying, I trained as many as 10 hours per week in various sports, especially karate (in which I had competed at an international level)."

"At the suggestion of local physicians, I spent the first 2 weeks hiking and climbed to an elevation of 3000 meters. After working for about a month at the main government hospital. I headed north from the Kathmandu Valley on another short trek. Trekking on these popular routes means hiking from one rustic lodge to the next: Therefore, one need only carry the bare minimum of food and equipment."

<b>"It was so cold that I expected to die"</b>

"On 22 December 1991, I was hiking with a man whom I had met 2 days before. We were attempting to cross a 4400-meter pass when a blizzard swept in and caused us to lose our trail. We discussed but could not agree on the safest course of action: I chose to turn back, whereas the other man continued climbing."

"With the mountain trail covered in snow, I followed a creek in the hope that it would lead down to the village that was on my map. The snow deepened, and the creek only led me to a precipitous waterfall. I slept under an overhang, then spent the next day slogging through snow; at one point, I fell into water. That night, sheltered by a narrow rock ledge, I consumed the last of my food: two chocolate bars. I wrote to my fiancee and to my family, apologizing for my carelessness and explaining the circumstances that had led to my situation. It was so cold that I expected to die."

<b>It was Christmas Eve</b>

"On the third day, I continued to descend slowly. I eventually decided to make camp under another overhang. Hemmed in by snow and difficult terrain, I was becoming apathetic, and my feet had lost sensation. A huge boulder provided adequate shelter, and nearby was a clearing from which I might signal a search helicopter. Without a tent and without the means to start a fire, I cleared a place for my sleeping bag and climbed into it. It was Christmas Eve."

"While under the rock, I starved. Each day I made snowballs, laid them out to melt, and slowly sucked out the water. I tried to pace my consumption by reading two pages of a book for each snowball. I sampled all of the nearby vegetation but nothing was edible. A caterpillar happened by and I ate it. My desire for food increased during the first 20 days, then leveled off; however, intrusive thoughts and dreams of eating never left me. I knew that I was losing weight. Bones protruded where muscle had been. Walking became an arduous task. I recalled news of an Irish hunger striker who had lived for 60 days without eating; I thought that I could last that long."

<b>"When my pen ran out of ink, I despaired"</b>

"The cold was intense. Most nights, I could not stop shivering; sleeping was somewhat better during the day. When I arrived at the rock, the sleeping bag and one moderately warm set of clothing were all that was dry. On sunny days, I laid out my wet, frozen clothes, and after 2 weeks I was able to wear them. This improved my situation immensely. Because I knew that much body heat is lost through the head, I kept my head wrapped up in towels and clothes. My feet were swollen and numb; I feared that I would lose them. When wrapped in socks and clothes, they eventually warmed, but became terribly painful. I tried to keep them just cold enough to impair sensation but not cause further injury."

"As the weeks wore on, I grew bored and anticipated dying. I made several attempts to climb down the mountain, but each time the deep snow and my lack of endurance forced me to return to the rock. The loneliness and sensory deprivation were hard. I imagined being back home with my fiancee, family, and friends. To share my thoughts and express my love, I continued to write to them. I was acutely aware of the anguish that those at home would feel because of my actions. When my pen ran out of ink, I despaired."

<b>"I imagined the impossible: mountains erupting like volcanoes"</b>

"It gave me pleasure to look at the snowflakes falling or birds flying over the beautiful, rugged hills. I watched in awe as avalanches crashed down cliffs. I dreamed of rescue and of being reunited with those I loved. I imagined the impossible: mountains erupting like volcanoes, or lost airplanes colliding with hillsides, bringing people into the area to save me. For many hours each day, I prayed for my loved ones at home and for my erstwhile trekking companion."

"I monitored time by the cycle of the moon. The sixth week was the hardest. It became more difficult to stay warm. I had persistent nausea and urinary urgency but was often unable to void. After one final attempt to walk out failed, I became suicidal and intentionally ceased intake of fluid. On the third stuporous day, I had a vivid dream that I was home in Australia with my fiancee and family. I awoke, very upset that I had given up, and again began to take snow water."

"On 2 February 1992, 42 days after losing my trail in the blizzard, I was spotted by a search helicopter after I staggered into the nearby clearing. The following day, the helicopter lifted me off of the mountain, and I was taken to Patan Hospital."

Go to the Annals.org website (links section) to check how much weight James lost and the medical evaluation shortly after he was found.

<b>Mountain dogs in the search for Trevor?</b>

As the helicopters were unsuccessful in the current search for Trevor, there is a possibility to bring in mountain dogs. <b>Himalaya Rescue Dog Squad</b> is an organisation in Nepal working with the consent of the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Home and the District Super Intendent of Police (DSP). HRDSN provides search and rescue teams and medical aid in the event of natural disasters such as earthquake, avalanche & flood and when trekkers are reported missing or injured.

Their Mobile Medical Disaster Unit is able to provide aid and assistance to 3000 people and is equipped to move into any calamity area upon request. Lasting around 6 weeks, it is usually called for by the local Red Cross or by an individual village community directly.

The rescue unit currently comprises of 15 Rescue & Tracker Dogs and their handlers. Trevor could be a border line case though - Ingo Schnabel (director of the HRDSN) explained to an ExWeb contributor today: "Unfortunately Trevor is missing at an altitude where German shepherds can no longer work (over 6.000 m), and there is absolutely nothing we can do in that case. Shepherd dogs can "get" (sniff, smell) a trail up to altitudes of 4.800 to 5.000 meters, and then it gets too difficult for them - we know this from 16 years of experience with search and rescue in the Himalayas." (Everest BC is at approx 5400 meters, ed note).

<i>An e-mail arrived last week from friends to American Trevor Stokol: "A friend of mine has been missing at Mount Everest for over 4 days now. He is an American male in his twenties with a beard and long brown hair. His name is Trevor Stokol and he was last seen near base camp wearing black ski pants and a grey top. He is with a dog."

The friends are very worried: "We need all the help we can get. If you have any information about Trevor please contact Jodi at jodistokol@yahoo.com. Please pray for him as the sherpas continue to search."

Khumbu trekker British Gareth Koch has yet to be located. The last reported sighting of Gareth was at Chhukung on the morning of March 8th last year by a German couple who said that Gareth was descending to Dingboche. Since then there has been no sign of him.

July 19 this year, a search team using dogs found the dead body of Erica Kutcher in an area hit by avalanche about 2-3 km away from Shipton Spire base camp, in Pakistan. </i>


#Mountaineering #feature







Rescue Dog Eiko, first dog brought to the Himalaya Rescue Dog Squad - an organisation in Nepal providing search and rescue teams and medical aid in the event of natural disasters such as earthquake, avalanche & flood and when trekkers are reported missing or injured.
Shyauli Bazaar - Project Headquaters, nestled in the valley of the Middim Khola, Nepal. The rescue unit currently comprises of 15 Rescue & Tracker Dogs and their handlers. Their Mobile Medical Disaster Unit is equipped to move into any calamity area upon request - the dogs however perform best below 5000 meters.