Reaching the Balcony of Mt Everest, at 27,300 ft, Alpine Sange Sherpa and his client, a retired lieutenant colonel and doctor from Pakistan, were feeling strong and confident, ready to ascend the remaining 1,735 ft to the summit of the world's tallest mountain. Sange switched out oxygen bottles for his client and still feeling strong, he decided to save his own oxygen for the return trip. It would prove a near fatal mistake. As he and Dr. Abdul Jabbar Bhatti climbed higher and higher, Sange noticed the weather had turned; winds that were strong before, now became gale force, driving temperatures down so quickly that the oxygen masks froze and the goggles frosted over. They were in the dead zone, a place that is so hostile to human life that no one can survive there for more than 48 hours. In the almost six decades since Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay summited Mt. Everest more than 290 people have died, and the grim reality of the horrific conditions of the final 2,000 ft is clearly noted in the trail littered with more than 150 bodies of climbers who never have been, and likely never can be, recovered.
Realizing the extreme danger, Sange asked his client to immediately turn back. In his own words, "my client he refused my request because the Everest Summit was very near and said he had paid a lot of royalty to climb Everest. So, he don’t want to return back without successful summit of Mt. Everest. If I want, I could have left him alone all the way to summit and return myself back alone down but I didn’t do that. His life was equally important for me, I went with him up to the summit to guide and support him despite the bad weather and the fact that we both could lose our life in a blink." But out of duty and (and some say misplaced) loyalty, Sange continued to the summit in deteriorating weather with his client, which turned out to be a devastating decision for both.
After 12 hours of fighting extreme cold, lack of oxygen and exhaustion on 21 May 2017, Sange and Dr. Bhatti reached the summit of Mt. Everest saying, "I clicked some photographs of my client rapidly on the summit, hoping that I will get some good shot of him as I was feeling dizzy and was not able too see clearly. We spent around 5 minutes on the summit of Mt Everest, I started feeling like a drunk man almost going to fall down, It was too risky to stay on the summit more and the oxygen bottle was also limited so we descended from the summit quickly after replacing a new oxygen for my client." The altitude, cold and exertion had finally taken its toll. Dr. Bhatti was walking very slowly and eventually sat to rest, becoming totally unresponsive to Sange's calls. Having not used oxygen on the summit accent, Sange was also beginning to succumb to the altitude, cold and exhaustion. He too sat to rest. It was almost the last thing he ever did. He swallowed a few gulps of air and slid into unconsciousness.
Miraculously, he awoke to the sound of other passing climbers who perceived Sange and Dr. Bhatti as dead. Sange said, "When I opened my eyes, I found myself lying unconscious. If I look around, it was just bright white ice and snow. It was just burning my eyes. There were many climbers going to the summit. I was feeling very hungry and thirsty, my water bottle was frozen and no matter how hard I tried I was not able to move my hand and body at all, there was no sense in my both hand. Soon I realized my hand were completely frost bitten, I was very hopeless and tired that I could have easily closed my eyes and become a permanent member of the mountain. It would have been very peaceful rather than suffering. I was waiting for death when I could feel my body cold as ice, breathing and heartbeat were very slow. The climbers going to the summit didn’t even approached to me as I was like a dead body. I was unable to move and speak properly. At this point, I needed help. And I gave it to God. I surrendered. I kept praying to God and at that moment, I witnessed a miracle. God himself came to help me in a form of friends Ang Tsering Lama and his other Sherpa friends from Sherpa Khangri.
Luckily they recognized me, At first they thought I was dead."
"They feed me some tasty chocolate juice to quench my thirst and after a while with the help of my friends, me and my client we both were able to make it the rest of the way down to Camp 3 & 2 and then got airlifted to the hospital in Kathmandu."
Our group from Utah met Sange in April just before this tragedy struck. He was our guide to Everest base camp and then for some to Lobuche a 20,000 ft peak. During our weeks we spent with Sange we came to love this strong, healthy, happy, humble and quiet young Sherpa with a lifetime of opportunity ahead of him. We learned of his father and uncle who were also Sherpa guides on Mount Everest and his deep respect for the Himalayas. It was his dream to literally follow in their footsteps while earning a living for himself and helping his younger sister and brothers in Nepal. After preparing for years as a guide to the local peaks, this was his first year as a guide to the summit of Everest all at the age of 19. While we often hear the stories of foreigners who die or are maimed on Everest, we rarely hear about the Sherpa guides who support them. While saving his client, Sange almost lost his life. As a result of his kindness, he will lose both of his hands to frostbite. Our desire is to restore as much as possible to him.
Sange has a very tough road ahead. Finding employment and companionship will be extremely difficult or even impossible in Nepal. Sange will be receiving reconstructive treatment with Dr. Randall Viola through the Kees Brenninkmeyer Foundation; tax free donations can also be made to the Kees Brenninkmeyer Foundation ( http://www.keesbfoundation.org/donate/
Dr. Randall Viola is considered a top surgeon in the field and he is currently the Head Team Physician for Men's US Alpine Ski Team. The Kees Brenninkmeyer Foundation, with the Core Mission to financially assist alpine guides, patrollers, or instructors who require surgery in order to continue their careers, has agreed provide financial help for all of Sange's surgeries and rehabilitations. This will be a long and hard process and we ask for your support in helping us help a young man who gave so much to others.
Sange would not abandon his client--we won't abandon Sange.