A government official has reported a remarkable high-altitude rescue on Mount Everest, where a Malaysian climber narrowly escaped death with the help of a Nepali Sherpa guide. On May 18, Gelje Sherpa, aged 30, was leading a Chinese client towards the summit of Everest, which stands at an elevation of 8,849 meters (29,032 feet). While in the treacherous “death zone,” where temperatures can plummet to minus 30 degrees Celsius (86F) or lower, Gelje spotted the Malaysian climber desperately holding onto a rope and suffering from severe cold.
Gelje embarked on a challenging rescue mission, hauling the climber 600 meters (1,900 feet) down from the Balcony area to the South Col over the course of approximately six hours. Nima Tahi Sherpa, another guide, joined the rescue effort at this point. Gelje described how they wrapped the climber in a sleeping mat, taking turns to drag him on the snow or carry him on their backs until they reached camp III. From there, a helicopter equipped with a long line airlifted the climber from the 7,162-meter (23,500 feet) camp three to base camp.
Department of Tourism official Bigyan Koirala described the rescue as an exceedingly rare operation due to the extreme altitude involved. Gelje made the compassionate decision to convince his Chinese client to abandon their summit attempt and descend the mountain in order to prioritize the rescue of the stranded climber. He explained that saving a life held greater importance to him than fulfilling religious obligations, emphasizing his devout Buddhist beliefs.
The Malaysian climber’s identity has been kept confidential by Tashi Lakhpa Sherpa, representing the Seven Summit Treks company responsible for the climber’s logistics. The climber was safely transported back to Malaysia last week.
This climbing season, Nepal issued a record 478 permits for Everest from March to May. Unfortunately, the mountain has claimed the lives of at least 12 individuals this year, marking the highest number of fatalities in eight years. Among the casualties was Awang Askandar Ampuan Yaacub, a senior officer in Malaysia’s civil defense force. Additionally, another Malaysian climber, Muhammad Hawari Hashim, aged 33, reached the summit but went missing the following day, May 19. Despite the use of drones in search efforts, he has yet to be located.