Climbing Mount Everest has always been a dangerous endeavor. Devastating avalanches in 2014 and 2015 caused the deaths of 40 climbers and Sherpas, and multiple people die each year of exposure, altitude sickness, exhaustion, or frostbite.
Ang Tshering Lama, founder of Angs Himalayan Adventures, and a group of Sherpas helped prevent the death toll from growing by two on May 21, 2017. The experienced climber and guide was ascending with Sherpa Khangri Outdoors at the time, not as a guide but as medical and technical support. They were following a route to the South Summit, the second-highest peak on the planet.
The evening of their descent, the team split in two as they left their final camp. The first ascending group, which included Ang Jangbu Sherpa, Pemba Ongchu Sherpa, and Khangri co-owner Nima Gyalzen Sherpa, discovered Pakistani climber Abdul Jabbar Bhatti and his guide Sange Sherpa in a precarious state. They were stalled on the mountain—having started their climb to the summit the day before—and seemed to be having trouble descending.
Because the first team found Bhatti and Sange responsive, they gave them supplemental oxygen and encouraged them to begin their trip to the camp below. The second group, which included Lama, eventually arrived at the same location and found the two in a similarly risky but responsive state. They provided the pair with additional oxygen, covered their hands, and radioed the nearby camps. After being assured that Sherpas would be sent for the pair, the Khangri Outdoors group continued their ascent.
On their descent, however, they found Sange and Bhatti unmoved and in a far worse state. No help had arrived. The delirious pair had discarded the supplemental oxygen they'd already been given without using it, so Nima Gyalzen offered his own. Lama, Ang Jangbu, and Nima Gyalzen decided the only way to ensure the safety of the struggling duo would be to bring them down the mountain themselves. As they prepared to pull the two along the treacherous slope, Pemba guided the original group alone.
The situation had grown graver, but Lama was well-prepared for emergencies on the mountain. He’s a certified Wilderness First Responder and has volunteered as a Search and Rescue Climbing Ranger at Mount Rainier and Denali National Parks. His expertise, the experience of the Sherpas on the team, and the group’s quick thinking and bravery saved the pair—who are now safely home and recovering, Bhatti in Pakistan and Sange in Kathmandu. They may lose a few fingers, but they’ve come away with their lives.