Hopes of finding the two Indian climbers missing on Mount Everest alive dimmed further on Tuesday, with a rescue mission yet to be sent to locate them on the world’s highest mountain.
Paresh Chandra Nath, Gautam Ghosh, Sunita Hazra and Subhash Pal - all from West Bengal - and four Sherpa guides accompanying them went missing very close to the 8,848-metre tall summit of the mountain on Saturday.
Hazra, Pal and the Sherpa guides were located on Sunday, but there has been no trace yet of Nath and Ghosh. Though Hazra was able to reach till Camp II at 6,400 metres, from where she was airlifted to Kathmandu, Pal died due to altitude sickness while descending on Sunday night at 7,500 metres.
“A rescue team comprising six persons will leave Kathmandu by helicopter on Wednesday. They will be dropped at Camp II from where it should take two days to reach the missing climbers and Pal,” Wangchu Sherpa of Kathmandu-based Trekking Camp Nepal told HT.
There is little hope of finding them alive as they didn’t have adequate oxygen supply to last them at an altitude where the supply of natural oxygen is so low that the area is called by climbers as ‘death zone’.
Sherpa said that the rescue team will first try to locate the missing climbers and bring them as well as the Pal’s body back to Camp II from where it will be possible to airlift them back to Kathmandu.
As efforts continue to trace her team members, Hazra, who sustained severe frostbite, chest infection and altitude sickness, is recovering in a Kathmandu hospital.
Suffering from severe weakness, the 42-year-old was in no position to talk and was being taken care of by husband Sudeb Hazra and two other relatives who reached Kathmandu on hearing about her plight.
“Sunita is an experienced climber, but she was totally shocked by what happened on Everest. While her team members perished, she is extremely lucky to have survived,” said Sudeb.
According to doctors treating her at Norvic Hospital, the climber suffered frostbite on both hands and feet, a minor fracture on her right hand, severe chest infection and dehydration.
“Sunita was admitted on Monday and is now out of danger now. She will have to stay in the hospital for another four to five days to completely recover her strength,” Dr JP Jaiswal, consultant physician and cardiologist, said.
Everest is worth the pain
Another Indian climber rescued from the Everest and airlifted to Kathmandu is Haryana’s Seema Goswami, who is also recovering at the Norvic Hospital.
Goswami suffered frostbite on her feet, chest infection, dehydration and peeling of facial skin. Doctors treating her say she is recovering fast and will be able to leave the hospital within two-three days.
The 27-year-old reached the summit on May 20 but experienced extreme weakness and snow blindness while descending. Another climber helped Goswami to reach Camp IV.
“The Sherpa accompanying me left me there alone. My oxygen supply also got over, but I was lucky to find an extra one from a bag lying there. If I hadn’t found that, I would have been dead,” she told HT.
Four Sherpas from Seven Summit Treks, the expedition organiser, reached her on May 21 and brought her to the safety of Camp II. She was airlifted to Kathmandu on May 22.
Daughter of a tractor driver, Goswami is extremely proud of her achievement and believes the pain and risks are worth the glory. But she is also sad to know about the fates of the climbers from West Bengal.
“Though we were on separate teams, almost all Indian climbers on Everest knew each other. I had met Hazra, Pal, Ghosh and Nath while coming down from the peak. They were on their way to the summit,” she said.
Another Indian climber, Rajib Bhattacharya from West Bengal, also died due to similar complications last week while descending from the peak of Mt Dhaulagiri (8,167 metre), the seventh highest mountain in the world.
Two climbers, Eric Arnold from Netherlands and Maria Strydom from Australia, also succumbed to high altitude sickness while on their way back from the summit.
Beginning May 11, nearly 400 climbers and Sherpa guides have reached the summit of Everest this season. Around three dozen climbers have been affected by frostbite and snow blindness.
Mt Everest has seen a rush of climbers in the past few weeks after Nepal government lifted a ban imposed after a devastating earthquake in 2015 killed at least 18 people at the base camp, situated at the altitude of 17,800 feet, and forced hundreds of climbers to abandon their expeditions.