Frostbite victim Everest climber Jirel may lose fingertips

Published On: May 29, 2019 03:00 AM NPT By: Sonam Lama

KATHMANDU, May 29: At around 9:50 am of 23rd May, Lal Bahadur Jirel scaled Mt Everest. Little did he know then that scaling the highest mountain would cost him more than his inner strength and mettle.

Descending about 100 meters to the Hillary step from the summit, Jirel noticed that he was short of oxygen and stayed back to replace the supplemental oxygen cylinder. Concerned over the disorderly crowd behind him, he took about five minutes to replace the supplemental oxygen cylinder and continued descending the peak. "After three hours, my fingers felt numb and I noticed that the middle two fingers of both the hands were frostbitten,” reminisced Jirel.

Jirel's Everest expedition began in 2010 as a mountain guide with submitting the highest peak from the Tibet side. Having scaled Everest before, the victory this year for Jirel was one of its kind at this time, he scaled the peak from the southeast ridge route from Nepal.

This year, altogether six foreigners and five Nepali guides including Jirel set out to ascent the peak on March 28. Out of the 11 mountaineers, three guides and a foreign climber made it to the top while the others had to abandon the expedition.

As the areas near South Col and Hillary step had summiteers waiting in the queue; the risk of running short of oxygen was higher.

With the tourism ministry issuing more climbing permissions, the crowd on Everest has been increasing in recent years. Jirel also anticipates the increase this year due to an additional number of mountaineers who could not ascent the peak due to the casualties of a 2014 avalanche.

“I had to withdraw my plan back in 2014. After the 2014 expedition was canceled, the government provided the summiteers the permit to ascent the peak within five years. With 2019 being the last year to make the summit, an additional group was likely to add up to the crowd this year,” said Jirel.

Although the number of mountaineers has been rising each year, the way to the pinnacle of the highest peak is a daunting task. With the season witnessing nine deaths on Everest so far, Jirel claims that more than a climber's physical fragility, his/her mental instability could cost his/her life.

Descending the peak remains more of a challenging task as the possibility of getting slipped is quite higher. Out of 11 mountaineers in the group, one of his fellow mountain guides, Dhruba Bista died while descending from camp III.

“When it comes to your health, there is no rationale behind firmly holding on to your obsession to reach the top,” he added.

Jirel was taken to Swacan International Hospital on Saturday having few health complexities. Doctors at the hospital are planning to amputate the tip of the third finger of his left hand. “He is getting stable and is under observation now. We have given him antibiotics and other necessary medical supplies,” said Denzil Lamichhane, a medical officer at the hospital. “He shall be discharged in a few days,” added Lamichhane.

Jirel finds himself lucky even as his fingertips have been badly damaged. “Watching a friend breathing his last helped me overcome my little suffering," said Jirel, adding, "Even if one of the fingers gets amputated, I will conjure up the courage to make further attempts on the world's highest peak.”

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