Umesh, Bhushan, Anand, & Ganesh; four of them were waiting for a clear window at the south col. Biggest moment in their lives was about to dawn… But everything didnt go as planned…
We share with you here.. a quick glimpses into what had happened at 7800 m. The excerpt is taken from the leader- Umesh Zirpe’s Book on Giripremi’s Quest of Everest.
Ashish had already summitted Lhotse. So, half the part of the expedition was a success but here at Everest, the weather conditions were becoming notorious with each hour. At Camp 4, the winds were ferocious now. They were raging at a speed of around 120 km/hr. No one could know if they would ever stop. So, attempt to go for a summit push in next few hours or for that matter, even in next couple of days, seemed uncertain. In such situation, the availability of supplemental Oxygen was going to become a deciding factor for further course of action. Spending more days at south col could invite situations where we might have to abandon the expedition and go back down from safety perspective; or wait for weather to get cleared, attempt the summit and then descend with depleted supplemental Oxygen. It could have put the entire team in jeopardy. In either of the cases, summit chances were thin and the risk factors were high.
I discussed the entire situation with our Sherpa Sirdar – Kame Sherpa and Pemba Rinji Sherpa. Rinji said, “We all should descend now at camp 2. We can spend a night there. The lower altitude will provide us some rest and then we can come back once the weather gets benign.” I wasn’t convinced with this idea. The whole concept of descending and coming up again, negotiating the risky Lhotse face, with an ambitious hope that the we won’t get tired and the weather will be favourable to us, was just too unrealistic. Before I say anything, Kame, the Sirdar himself refused to Rinji and said, “We descend only if we abandon the expedition.” As per him, we were left with only option: One of us should sacrifice his cylinders and descend to the base camp so that, other three members can utilise them and take a stay for extra day at south col, thus minimizing the risk.
Perhaps that was the only way ahead. Each one of us had 3 cylinders. If one of us sacrifices the summit bid, those three extra cylinders could then be used by rest of the three members. This way they could have spent a few more hours at south col. But who would that be? Everest is the dream of every mountaineer. We had been striving so hard for this sole moment, now the success was just right in front of our eyes.. so close to making our dreams into reality.. but we were in this strange situation.. that one of us had to go. I thought for a second and I heard the voice from within: “No one but YOU.” Period. Within a split second I took the decision and conveyed it to Kame. He was totally flabbergasted for he thought that someone from Bhushan, Ganesh or Anand could be asked to do down. But hang on! Denying any of them their chance of summit and using it for my personal achievement could never have touched my mind. As a matter of fact, no one in my team would have thought like this at all. However, being the leader of the expedition, I took an advantage of the power and decided to leave camp 4. I knew what sacrifice these youngsters had made for reaching up to this point. Be it family matters or corporate service… the trio had sacrificed all for this singular dream and were aspiring to pursue career in mountaineering. On one side it was I, at the age of 48 with settled life and having satisfyingly climbed for over 30 years; and on the other were three young passionate of Giripremians, whose future career could have boosted significantly with the success of Everest. Bhushan and Ganesh had quit their job solely for the expedition. In fact, Giripremi, considering their aspiration in mountaineering and the sacrifices they made; had decided to give them another chance for Everest. How could I take a decision which would affect the future of three bright mountaineers and shatter the motive of the club? As a leader of the expedition, I told this to Kame and firmly declared my decision.
Now, once decided, there was no point in wasting time anymore. I told my decision to my team members and for a moment they couldn’t believe it. Bhushan’s eyes were in tears. All three of them were overwhelmed with this unexpected development. I tried to convince them. Arranging the extra Oxygen cylinders or buying spare cylinders from other teams at camp 4… all these options were exploited. No success. I knew the critical situation at camp 4. In this adverse situation, it was impossible to arrange extra Oxygen cylinders from basecamp, and the availability of Oxygen with other team was anyway just enough for their own team members. No one would have sold Oxygen Cylinders for a human life. And hence I had, with a firm resolute, come to this unequivocal decision.
I could understand their feelings. They were honest. But the decision was important for the success of the team, so I firmly made it clear to all, “I have explored with Sherpas every possible option for further movements and we do not have any other option but THIS. I will go down but you three are making it to the top and coming down safely.”
I looked at Her one last time, Heavy hearted though but with a smile, I left the camp 4.