Queenstown climber recounts Himalayan rescue

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A Queenstown mountaineer has recounted the dramatic rescue of his injured climbing partner on the roof of the world.

Ben Dare, 29, and Scott Blackford-Scheele were roped together pushing for the summit of 6960-metre Himalayan mountain Anidesha Chuli a week last Saturday.

Blackford-Scheele, 24, is believed to have slipped before falling 90 metres, suffering concussion and sustaining head injuries.

Dare, speaking to Radio NZ from Nepalese capital Kathmandu, says he did not see the fall itself but was hit by a small avalanche and then realised the rope to his partner, who had been above him, was now pointing down.

“The first I saw of him he was hanging upside down 35-40ms below me on the ropes,” Dare says.

“I was incredibly relieved to see him. At first, he was unconscious for three to four minutes after it happened but then just a feeling of immense relief when I saw him start to move and make some noise.”

Dare, who has been hailed a hero for his actions, worked his way down to Blackford-Scheele and checked him over for injuries.

“The mind was working at a million miles an hour but I just did what I had to and what any of the others would have done in the same situation.”

Rescue from such high, steep terrain was impossible so he began the painstaking process of lowering him back down the mountain.

“I just began lowering him back down the face, rope length by rope length,” Dare told Radio NZ.

“At 3.30 in the afternoon there’s only a few hours of daylight left. So I managed to get him down to a bivvy site a couple of hundred metres below where the accident occurred, that evening.

“We spent the night there and then the following morning I continued to lower him back down towards the flatter ground of where our previous camp at 6000m had been, and that’s where I notified the other two on the radio and set off the emergency locator beacon.”

The pair made it to Camp 2 about 24 hours after the accident. 

The team’s two other members – Rob [Frost] and Andrei [van Dusschoten] – trekked over night from Base Camp at 4800m to reach them.

The four exhausted men huddled together in the tent before a helicopter airlifted both Blackford-Scheele and Dare to hospital in Kathmandu.

Dare says his friend’s recovery is progressing in leaps and bounds, making massive improvements since the accident. They aim to fly back to New Zealand over the next few days.

“Obviously with any head injury, in particular with the nature of the one he received, the full recovery process it’s not just going to be a matter of days, it’s weeks or even months.”

The team has no immediate plans to return to Anidesha Chuli any time soon. But they won’t rule out a second summit attempt on the mountain, which is known as the White Wave and 115km east of Everest.