Stories Heard Along the Way

by Andrew Stein

Trekkers talk trekking. Throughout my journey, I learned of famous climbers past as well as stories of those currently on the trail, and only the biggest of world news made its way up to the top. In my case, this meant learning about the killing of Osama bin Laden.

In this entry, I will describe some of the more memorable stories/rumors that spread over the mountain. Before even departing on my trek, I was talking with a couple who had just returned from Everest Base Camp, and they had a frightening tale to share. They described a girl under 30 years old at around 4400 meters on her way up to Everest Base Camp. She felt horrible, her lips were blue, her symptoms numerous, and her energy completely depleted. She did not continue her ascent and instead stayed at a lodge at 4400 meters while the rest of her group left her behind. The guides and other local Nepali were confident that if she rested at that altitude, her condition would improve and she could descend with her group when they returned. Sadly, she never had the chance to descend. A couple days later, this young girl at a high, but not excessive altitude of 4400 meters, passed away. The dangers of the mountain are real, and it is important to listen to our bodies as we trek.

This next story occurred on the same night I was at Annapurna Base Camp; however, I did not learn about it until the following day. This time, symptoms of altitude sickness came suddenly to a woman of about 40 years after she reached ABC. Her condition escalated so quickly that there was little time to react before she slipped into unconsciousness. She had to be carried from Base Camp and eventually helicoptered off the trail. I do not know how this story ends, but if she suffered from something as serious as cerebral edema, the risks are very serious.

Climbing and trekking is an exhilarating and sometimes dangerous activity. Annapurna’s highest peak holds the greatest death rate with respect to those who attempt to reach the summit. Although not many have tried, I heard about one of every two climbers die trying to summit Annapurna. In comparison, summiting Mount Everest has a lower death rate but higher total deaths because of the large number of attempts each year.