Tomaz Humars extreme rescue: Back to life at the sound of a chopper

Posted: Aug 10, 2005 10:51 am EDT

He sat there like a cat in a tree, unable to come down. Hour after hour, Tomaz had climbed up through an endless maze of bad ice when - all of a sudden, and at the onset of very heavy snow fall - he found himself trapped with no way back. Every time he tried, he either fell or was hit by falling rocks and sliding snow. Hanging, rotten seracs guarded the down exit: Rupal's trap snapped shut and Tomaz was hijacked by the wall.

Tomazs BC team lived every minute of the rescue with clenched teeth and crossed fingers. But this morning, two Pakistani army helicopters lifted Tomaz from the Rupal wall, after six days of a Nanga Parbat nightmare. Here is the home team's dispatch on the latest events:

A red dawn

At 4.30 a.m. we were already outside our tents, looking at the sky. The stars had disappeared, the blueness of the sky died in a red light from the new-born sun which reached everything but the mountain! Nanga Parbat was covered in fog. The fog stretched throughout the mountain, but then gradually began to tear off.

At 5.30 a.m. we began checking the time, deeply concerned. Although we had alerted the pilots an hour before that the skies were clear, they had yet not showed up. Tomaz had not called in either. This was weird, as he knew the rescue was taking place in the early morning. Suddenly we heard a roaring sound: The pilots had not wasted their time - they took another quick look at the footage and flew off!

Tomaz barely survived the night

Finally, Thank God,Tomaz called in! He had almost froze - the night was clear and cold. He did not get a wink of sleep and kept himself warm by digging snow. He barely survived the night and, by dawn, he fell asleep. It was the sound of the roaring helicopter close to him, which woke him up.

We were able to follow the helicopter as it approached and backed off again I can see it, screamt Tomaz through the radio. At the same time, the pilot confirmed he was spotting an alpinist dressed in red.

A dangerous mistake

Toma waited, tied to two ice screws with a loose prusik knot so he would not stagger while trying to catch the weights on the rope. The helicopter approached him, dropped the rope, Toma caught it, wrapped it around himself, raised his thumb to confirm he was ok and the helicopter flew up But he had not freed himself from the prusik. Luckily, it tore or else

We saw him hanging from the rope, the helicopter approaching. It was a joy to for our team to see him, as well as the locals and the soldiers who are in training at the base.

Kissing the ground

At 6.30 a.m. Tomaz kissed the ground. Actually, he fell on his knees since he could barely walk from exhaustion. They laid him on the sleeping bag, he cried, hugged everyone around him and kept thanking the crew. They immediately changed him out of the wet clothes and footwear his feet were at most risk.

Doctor Anda concluded he is suffering from frostbite at an early stage, but luckily she diagnosed no permanent damage. All Tomaz wanted was some liquid, and then words flew out of his mouth. He decided to remain at base camp to rest. We are probably leaving for Islamabad tomorrow.

We contacted his family, Viki, Stipe and Nataa, and of course our great friend Nazir Sabir. We would like to thank everyone who has helped in any way and a big thank you to the pilots (Col. Ubaib, Maj. Naeem, Col. Rashid Ulah Baig and Maj. Khalid), the Pakistani army, Pakistani and Slovene governments for all their support.

Slovenian ace Tomaz Humar was attempting a new route on the sheer Rupal face of Nanga Parbat, climbing alone in very bad conditions. Without visibility, Tomaz got stuck in a labyrinth of Ice and unsettled snow, unable neither to climb further up nor to descend due to heavy snowfall and avalanches.

He was trapped on a ridge with snow slides running all around him, crouched in a tiny snow-hole for six days. Rescue operations started days ago but bad weather had thwarted all efforts until today.

More than 4500m-long, Nanga Parbats Rupal face is considered the biggest wall in the world. Today, only three routes have been successfully climbed there: Messner's (a.k.a German-Italian route), the Polish-Mexican route, opened by Carlos Carsolio and Jerzy Kukuczka, and Schell's route.

This was the second attempt on Rupals face for Tomaz Humar, but it was the first time he actually set foot on the new route. Two years ago, health problems and deep snow forced the climber to abort the expedition during the acclimatization stage on Messner route

Tomaz Humar was born on February 18, 1969 in Ljubljana, Slovenia. He currently lives in Stranje and works for the Customs Office in Ljubljana. He has been a member of the Kamnik branch of the Alpine Club since 1987, and completed 1500 ascents, 70 of them first ascents at home and abroad.

Tomaz most remarkable climbs have been tough climbs at slightly lower altitudes: New routes on Ama Dablam, Lobuche, Nuptse West, Dhaulagiri (no summit), Aconcagua South face, etc.

About his hardest climbs, he told ExWeb: "A couple of times I had really close calls, for example, on Annapurna, I was caught in a storm above 7500m all alone for three days. Maybe that was the first time I was scared. Dhaulagiri was very hard and very dangerous too, but Nuptse was my hardest, because my partner died on the summit."

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At 6.30 a.m. Tomaz kissed the ground. Actually, he fell on his knees since he could barely walk from exhaustion (click to enlarge).
Doctor Anda took inmediately care of Humar. She concluded he is suffering from frostbite at an early stage, but luckily she diagnosed no permanent damage. (Click to enlarge).
Tomaz decided to remain resting in BC today. He considers he doesn't need to be taken to hospital yet. The team is probably leaving for Islamabad tomorrow (click to enlarge).

The Pakistan Army crew did an excellent job. Tomaz wept, hugging and thanking Col. Ubaib, Maj. Naeem, Col. Rashid Ulah Baig and Maj. Khalid and his team. All images courtesy of (click to enlarge).
It was my fault getting in that mess. I took the wrong decisions, I know," said Humar. The climber declared he was born again the day he was rescued. In the image, Tomaz is helped back by his BC team (click to enlarge).

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