Everest 2007: Makalu Ming-Ho Gau looking back in anger

Posted: Mar 13, 2007 03:15 pm EDT

(MountEverest.net) Further reports in Asian media confirm Taiwanese climber Makalu Ming-Ho Gau as the leader of a team climbing Everest this spring.

Ming-Ho Gaus comeback is being heralded as the triumphant return of an Everest survivor, but Gau may need more than pompous stories to win a personal crusade hes been fighting for years against ghosts from the past and Jon Krakauer.

Frostbites and critics

Gau was among the climbers caught in a storm during their spring 1996 summit bid on Everest. Severely frostbitten, he was rescued after 36 hours, while eight other climbers died on the mountain.

Makalu ended up losing his nose, fingers and toes. But he was not exactly regarded as a hero. In his best-selling novel Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauers comments about Gaus behaviour on the mountain were far from kind. Krakauer accused Gau of being a slow climber delaying others, callous about the death of a teammate the previous day and, most of all, of being on the mountain when he shouldnt have: The Taiwanese had agreed with other team leaders not to attempt the summit on May 10 in order to avoid crowding on the upper slopes, but when the day came, Gau set off for the top anyway.

Counter-attacking on media bettlefield

Dogged by the accusations, last year Gau counter-attacked through Prayer Flags, a documentary made along with a Japanese journalist that showed his point of view on the tragedy. On the film, Gau put the blame on western commercial expeditions, which overcrowded the mountain.

During the film release in Kathmandu in 2006, Gau described Krakauer's account as biased and contradictory. I havent given any kind of interview to Jon Krakauer, and the way he has portrayed Taiwanese climbers as incompetent and inexperienced is absolutely false, Makalu told reporters.

Eleven years and a large amount of plastic surgery operations later, Makalu Ming-ho Gau is back on Everest, this time from the north side, but as team leader again. Gau will be the head of an expedition launched by Taiwan Mountaineering Association.

Update on Everest Chinese teams

Gau's team is one out of three Chinese expeditions attempting Everest's Tibetan side this spring. In addition to the Taiwanese, there will be a 6-member team sponsored by Xinjiang Beer and led by Yang Chunfeng, and the huge team training this year for the Olympics torch relay up Everest, which will take place in 2008.

Makalu Ming-Ho (Minghe) Gau was among the climbers caught in a storm during their spring 1996 summit bid on Everest. Gau found severely frostbitten and rescued after 36 hours, including one night spent above 8000m. Four men and a woman members in commercial expeditions climbing from Nepal, and three men from a 39-member Indo-Tibetan Border Police team via Tibet, died May 10, 1996.

US journalist Jon Krakauer, who was sent by Outside magazine to cover the Everest expedition led by New Zealand climber Robert Hall's Adventure Consultants agency, wrote 'Into Thin Air', which became a bestseller.

Taiwanese climbers are known to climb in foul weather, and lose body parts to frostbite. Makalu had already lost parts of his fingers on previous climbs, and had more cut off after Everest. International climbers therefore sometimes greet each other with a "Taiwanese hello" - that is waiving a hand at each other with all fingers folded.

Gau's Taiwan Mountaineering Association team is one out of three Chinese expeditions attempting Everest's Tibetan side this spring. In addition to the Taiwanese, there will be a 6-member team sponsored by Xinjiang Beer and led by Yang Chunfeng, and the huge team training this year for the Olympic torch relay up Everest, which will take place in 2008.


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Image of Makalu Ming-Ho Gau at lunch during a trek in China's mountains two years ago, courtesy of China Peaks.