Newsletter 2423 May 2001
Managing the Lunatics
Throughout the afternoon, I heard Russ calling up to them, but I was too busy with my own trials to listen in. I found myself managing a lunatic asylum. Bottlenecks kept occuring as tired climbers, possibly suffering from Cerebral Edema, simply sat down along the route and zoned out. We'd be stopped for ten to thirty minutes at a time. My oxygen supplies were rapidly draining.
Just below the Third Step I passed a cluster of climbers and dragged Naoki, Karsang and Dawa with me. At the top of the Second Step a Spanish climber, who had summited all 8000 meter peaks was laying, passed out on the rocks, a Venezuelan was fighting with his Sherpa at the top of the rappel. I was pulled by two arms at once. The Venezuelan eventually succumbed to my shouting and let his Sherpa rig his rappel. The Spanish claimed he was blind, but no worry....Did he have other symptoms of High Altitude Cerebral Edema? of course not....Well these little tablets will cure your blindness. He greedily ate the dexamethasone and now would let me touch him and help him, but not to let himself use Oxygen because this was an Oxygen-less ascent.
We got him down the Second Step, but it was like watching a drunk walk a tight rope. Once on the slightly leveler ground, he tried to wander off, using the train track walking technique of speeding up rather balancing out. Ten of us were on egg shells, waiting to see him peel away from the face and fall to his death.
At the First Step, he barreled past a few of us, almost running down the bulging crest. Eric, an Austrian and paternal figure, and I stopped him and eventually he agreed to follow Eric on rappel. Eric hopped down the face in two rappels. The Spaniard, attached himself to three different ropes and proceeded to tie himself in a knot in the middle of the face. I desecended to him and freed him, but now he was unattached to any rope, in the middle of the face. Insisting I go first, I lowered myself to the bottom and shouted directions up to him. Suddenly he was bounding down. Ten feet from the end was a knot, where folks would stop rappelling and climb down to the safety of a narrow trail. He stopped at the end of the knot, untied the two ropes and was about to jump. Directly below him was the frozen body of an American woman. Was he going to jump on her???
Eric and I were frantic. We yelled and screamed at him. He eventually downclimbed and bit, then jumped. Eric actually tried to catch him. It seemed suicidal to me, but just another day in the asylum.< /p>
I snatched the walkie talkie from the Spanish and screamed at his team mates on the other side. More anger and frustration than logic came out of my mouth, but when you learn your Spanish in New Jersey the vocabulary is limited to car accidents and failed romances. Besides I had run out of Oxygen more than two hours earlier.
My own client and Sherpas were still rappelling the First Step. I needed to wait for them. Some divine being was keeping the Spanaird alive. I'm sure he was better off without me. Until he jumped down another small cliff and thought he broke his leg. He looked at me with tears in his eyes, "Can you help me with my broken legs?"
"Your legs can't be broken," I said because I knew he was dead if they were. But I went back to help him, becuase he was causing a bottle neck and my client was stuck behind him. "Get up!" I demanded. And he forgot his legs were broken, now more fearful of me. He pushed, I pulled and he stood. "I guess they are not broken," with that he scrambled on.