Climber rescued from Everest's 'death zone' grateful for second chance at life

KATMANDU, Nepal — A Nepalese woman who escaped Mount
Everest's "death zone'' with little more than frostbite said
Sunday her rescuers saved her life after finding her sick and
unconscious on the world's highest mountain.

It took a team of mountaineers and precision planning to get
22-year-old Usha Bista back to base camp after they discovered her
at 27,880 feet suffering from cerebral edema, or swelling of the
brain, which can be fatal if left untreated at a high altitude.

"They gave me a second life,'' Bista told The Associated Press.
"I can't believe the love and concern they showed to rescue me in
spite of such a difficult situation.''

She has frostbite on two fingers and several toes but no other

Bista was on her way to the summit on May 21 when she fell sick
and collapsed.
She does not know how long she was unconscious, but remembers
two foreigners and a Nepali Sherpa guide _ although already
exhausted from their own climb to the summit _ who stopped to help
Her rescue team actually comprised four foreign climbers and
three Sherpas, said Ang Tshering, president of Nepal Mountaineering

"Usha is very lucky to be alive and to have been found by these
people. They told me that she was in a really bad shape when they
found her and could have possibly died if she had been not found,''
Tshering said.

Several climbers already at the last camp, South Col — at 26,240
feet — rushed to help, calling doctors at a lower camp for advice
on immediate treatment. They wrapped her in a sleeping bag, tied
her to a sled and dragged her down.

The final and most difficult part of the Everest climb — the
area above the South Col — is nicknamed the "death zone.'' Rescues
at that altitude are difficult because of the thin air, high winds,
treacherous icy slopes and exhaustion.

Bista said she only remembers walking toward the summit from the
camp at South Col for a few hours before she began to lose
strength, could go no further and collapsed. She had never
attempted to summit Everest before, although she says she had
climbed smaller peaks.

"I was determined to get going and kiss the summit,'' Bista

Bista claimed her Sherpa guide left her when she fell sick, and
that her team leader abandoned her at South Col on the last leg of
the journey.

Neither her guide nor team leader was reachable to comment on
the allegations Sunday.

The Nepal Mountaineering Association is investigating her
claims, according to Tshering. The Mountaineering Department will
assist with the probe, Dhakal said.

The investigation will likely further fuel a debate on climbing
ethics and responsibility.

Last year, British climber David Sharp died on the northern side
of Mount Everest in China, although dozens of climbers passed him
on the well-traveled route to the summit.

In other cases, climbers have given up their often
once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reach the top of the world to
save fellow mountaineers.

Climbers afflicted with high altitude cerebral edema — a sudden,
potentially fatal swelling of the brain — display confusion,
hallucinations and semiconsciousness and need to descend
immediately and receive oxygen and medication.