Being a miracle in itself, that a team has rescued alive an Indian mountaineer who had been trapped at the bottom of a crevasse for three days, could be anecdotal. Speaking of Annapurna (8,091 meters), the scene of this unexpected resurrection that has led Anurag Maloo from his ice tomb to a hospital bed, the true miracle is that deaths are not counted on the fingers at this point in spring from both hands. As paradoxical as it may seem, the first eight-thousander climbed by humans is also the deadliest, the one with the highest death to peak ratio observed: up to 2018, 266 peaks and 72 deaths had been recorded, 37 due to avalanches. His normal route, on the north face, is a kind of Russian roulette in which you not only have to dodge the crack fields, but also fight the frequent avalanches that sweep the bottom of the mountain. Two weeks ago, a huge avalanche buried everything in its path between camps 3 and 2. It was lucky (or a miracle) that no one was on the mountain at that time.
Annapurna changed forever on April 16, 2021, when a squad of 67 climbers climbed to its summit under the wheel of a media display prepared by Nepalese guide agencies: that day there were as many summits as in the first 40 years since the conquest of the mountain That day, the legendary French guide and mountaineer Marc Batard withdrew, horrified by what his eyes saw: poorly installed ropes that could give way under the weight of several climbers, guides without serious knowledge of mountaineering, clients plugged into oxygen bottles and without no control over what they did, mountaineers enrolled in commercial expeditions without the greatest hint of autonomy in the middle… and proclaimed that “a catastrophe of enormous proportions” would arrive sooner rather than later.
It could have happened the day before yesterday, when a group made up of the Sherpas Lakpa Nurbu, Tashi, Chepal, Dawa Nurbu, Lakpa and the Poles Adam Bielecki and Mariusz Hatala looked into the crack where the Indian mountaineer had fallen with the idea of trying to “recover a corpse”, as Bielecki explained in his networks. Fortunately, no avalanches were triggered while they worked to hoist Anurag Maloo up in a place where they stayed for several hours when it is reasonable to pass through that point at the right times and on the run.
We recommend Adam Bielecki @AdamTheClimber for his unwavering courage and professionalism in the face of danger. Thank you for your incredible bravery and expertise in rescuing Anurag Maloo from the crevasse on Annapurna I (8091 m). Your help in rescuing Anurag Maloo from the… pic.twitter.com/bHrJj0Gq52
— Everest Today (@EverestToday) April 20, 2023
The Indian had fallen before the gaze of another climber, the Brazilian Moeses Fiamoncini, whose account of the events on explorersweb makes your hair stand on end and raises many questions: “Maloo was very weak, probably affected by altitude sickness, so he I decided to go behind him or to his side, always a few meters away. He also went down with him sherpa, so he was never alone”, emphasizes the Brazilian. “Arriving at an 8m vertical ice step equipped with fixed ropes, Maloo asked me to go down first, so I made sure to pick the right rope and descended. At the bottom of the ledge I looked up and saw Maloo rappelling but realized he had chosen an old rope barely two meters long and didn’t go all the way to the ground: I yelled to warn him but he didn’t hear me and plummeted down, it crashed three feet from where I was and slid to the bottom of a crevasse, where you couldn’t see it. I was horrified”, confides Fiamoncini. He sherpa de Maloo had a rope and leaned out tied to it to the edge of the crack: “We spent a long time calling him, assuming a serious risk and seeing how the avalanches followed one another not far away. Finding him alive was a tiny option, so we kept going down until we reached base camp”, says Fiamoncini.
Maloo had contracted the services of one of the most powerful agencies in Nepal, Seven Summit Treks, whose high prices are intended to guarantee the safety of clients and is a way to stand out from the low-cost agencies that operate in the country. For these reasons it is striking that the sherpa who accompanied Maloo did not notice the tremendous mistake his client made by placing his descender on the wrong rope, more knowing his physical and cognitive state. Nor has said agency explained what length of rope the sherpa And what prevented him from going down into the crack: the Poles found the Indian climber less than 50 meters from the edge of it, and not 300 or 100 as initially reported. It is also not known exactly what work the team carried out sherpa sent later by Seven Summit Treks to try to find the missing person. Finally, the insistence of Maloo’s family, their petitions to the governments of India and Nepal, and the guarantee that the costs of a rescue would be covered by the insurance company, allowed a solvent team and an exceptional pilot, Sobit Gauchan, to come together to work the miracle The Pole Adam Bielecki signed in 2013, in the company of three compatriots, the first winter of Broad Peak (8,047 m). But two of his colleagues, Maciej Berbeka and Tomasz Kowalski, never returned. A part of the Polish mountaineering community criticized Bielecki for not having waited for his teammates during the descent, since he was the strongest on the team. Since then, Bielecki has starred in two high-profile rescues: Maloo’s and Elisabeth Revol’s at Nanga Parbat, in the winter of 2018.
Guiding in a mountain of 8,000 meters, as it is understood in the West, requires a highly qualified guide and a constant presence with the client. In the absence of reliable guides (very few have a certified degree), local agencies entrust everything to fixed ropes, bottled oxygen and the work of air rescue services, which in mountains as compromised as Annapurna It clearly seems like a bet as controversial as it is crazy. With objective dangers as serious as cracks, breakage of seracs (hanging ice masses) and avalanches, it does not seem like the best idea to move clients without pedigree, slow and dependent up and down the mountain. The Indian Maloo, in his first foray into an eight-thousander, seems like one more victim of the recent fascination with the highest mountains on Earth among the upper-middle class of India. As explained by the American mountaineer Mark Synnot in his book the third pole (Desnivel editions), the revenue from getting to the top of one of the 14 eight-thousanders is tremendous in terms of social recognition, and the fact of crowning Everest has granted several Indians relevant lifetime positions in the country’s Administration. Maloo is in the ICU of a hospital in Nepal in critical condition. Of course, summit attempts continue on Annapurna, where only two deaths have been recorded this spring.
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