A mountain climber who was rescued from a Himalayan peak where it’s believed her climbing partner is presumed to have died has recalled the agonising decision to leave him behind.
Elisabeth Revol has returned to France and is currently recovering in hospital, after she was rescued from Nanga Parbat mountain – the world’s ninth-highest peak at 8,126 meters (26,660 feet) on Sunday.
Revol and her climbing partner Tomasz Mackiewicz called for help on Friday, though freezing temperatures and hugh winds caused him to develop snow blindness.
She says rescuers urged her to leave Mackiewicz, a 43-year-old Polish national.
‘Tomek told me “I can’t see anything any more”,’ Revol recalled.
‘He hadn’t used a mask because it was a bit hazy during the day and by nightfall he had ophthalmia (an inflammation of the eye). We hardly had a second at the top. We had to rush to get down.’
‘At one point, he couldn’t breathe,’ Revol said.
‘He took off the protection he had in front of his mouth and he began to freeze. His nose became white and then his hands, his feet.’
She added: ‘They [rescuers] told me, ‘If you go down to 6,000 metres, we can pick you up, and we can get Tomek at 7,200 metres.”
She added: ‘It wasn’t a decision I made, it was imposed on me.’
Although Revol is on the road to recovery, medics are assessing whether she will need to have her hands or left foot due to frostbite.
Frederic Champly, the doctor responsible for her treatment at the Sallanches hospital near the Mont Blanc massif, said Revol has serious ‘grade 3 or 4 frostbites’.
Revol was brought down from the mountain by Polish climbers on a separate expedition to scale the K2 peak.
The group volunteered for the rescue, braving high winds and nighttime temperatures of around minus 35 degrees Celsius ( minus 31 F) to scale the slippery mountain wall and bring her down.
The rescue team was unable to reach Mackiewicz, from Poland, due to poor weather, and made the decision to leave him behind after Revol reported the poor condition he was in when she last saw him.
Revol said Mackiewicz, who turned 43 this month, had frostbitten hands and legs and face, no sense of time or space, was snow blind, and unable to move unassisted.
Speaking at a news conference at the hospital, fellow mountain climber Catherine Destivelle said she has been told Revol is in ‘good psychological condition’.
‘I think she must be happy to be alive and to have survived,’ Destivelle said.
The four Polish climbers who rescued her are in Skardu, Pakistan, waiting for the weather to allow them to be flown back to their base on K2, the world’s second tallest mountain.
They are still planning to make the first winter ascent on it.