Everest survivor tells of rescue

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The Independent Online
A climber feared dead on Mount Everest after blizzards battered expeditions on Friday spoke yesterday of his helicopter rescue. Seaborne Weathers, 49, of Dallas, descended to a 20,000-foot pass, where a Nepalese army helicopter picked him up. It was the highest helicopter rescue on record.

However, eight climbers were still missing last night, presumed dead, among them a New Zealander, Rob Hall, who, crippled with frostbite but able to operate his radio, had a final conversation with his wife before perishing alone near the summit.

Thirty mountaineers, mostly from two commercial expeditions, were on the 29,028-foot summit when the storm struck. Survivors were treated for frostbite and other injuries. Mr Weathers suffered facial burns from high winds and severe frostbite on both hands. ''I am OK; I'm better now,'' he said from Kathmandu.

He was 400 feet from the summit when the storm hit: it was too dark to continue, so he squatted on a ledge, without oxygen or anything to drink. He descended on his own a day after 20 others had taken shelter. Geoff Gabites, chief executive of the Adventure Tourism Council, said it was the highest helicopter rescue on record.

Those missing include Andrew Harris, 31, from Queenstown, New Zealand, Douglas Hanson, 42, an American, and Yasuko Namba, 47, from Osaka, who had become the oldest woman to climb Everest.

Also feared dead was Scott Fischer, 41, leader of a mainly US expedition organised by Mountain Madness Outdoor Adventure, of which he was co-owner.