A TIME TO LIVE,A TIME TO DIE


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What resulted was a high-speed slide down the Lhotse Face into a crevasse. He was rescued by his team and brought down to Camp II, but died there of internal injuries.

A Time To Live, A Time To Die, Tragedy on the Southeast Ridge of Mount Everest

That day, the jet stream blasted the upper mountain and we crawled gratefully into our quivering shelters with the queasy feeling one gets before any summit day. Only if the wind died would we leave for the summit at midnight. And die it did, as we had seen it do in the late afternoon and early evenings of the past few weeks. With the newly donned down suits and oxygen masks, it was difficult to tell who was whom anymore. We quickly caught up to the Hall group and experienced frustration as we backed up behind the slower climbers. After we ascended the first fixed line and arrived at a natural bench, we were able to get around some of the slower ones.

Dawn came, and the conga line neared the Balcony. It was one step up, two steps back in the four inches-plus of snow on top of loose down-sloping shale.

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Occasionally, grunting up a small rock step completely took my breath away. In the growing morning light I was conscious of the fact that, though the going was hardly technical, I could step or slide off of the route to my destiny at any time. Just below the Balcony was an old, half-buried fixed line, the kind we would see more of further up. Things started to slow down. At the Balcony we had our first change of oxygen each of us carried a second bottle. The route narrowed from the previous rock and snow face to a ridge and dog-legged right toward the summit.

The top looked so close. The line moved on, but slowed again as we arrived at sections needing fresh fixed rope. Sherpas from both teams were to have left two hours before the clients the previous evening to take care of this, but for some reason had not. Then, eventually, it was up the ever-narrowing ridge to the South Summit. We were within reach of the summit! But staring toward the Hillary Step, my heart sank: in my dazed state, it looked daunting, and the drop-offs on either side of the ridge between the South Summit and the Hillary Step were even more so.

It turns out I had plenty of time to contemplate our next move.

What Does the Bible Say About Time To Die?

We waited again while more people arrived at our small sheltered nook under the South Summit. All were due for a last bottle of oxygen at this point which we would use to summit and descend to the South Col to be delivered by Sherpa staff. I recall some discussion there about the possibility of more rope to fix the narrow ridge and the Hillary Step. After waiting for more than an hour the oxygen bottles finally arrived and someone produced just enough rope for Anatoli to fix the Step; the ridge up to it had some old exposed lines that would have to suffice.

One mis-step here and it was a oneway ticket into either Nepal or Tibet. The snow on the ridge was funky and, when I pulled out my ax, I found I had punched a view through to Tibet. At last we huffed and puffed one by one through the strenuous, but not difficult, Step, and emerged onto the broad, slanting summit ridge. I remember Lobsang passing me.


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Further on, beneath the summit, he assisted Sandy Hill, who lay bewildered-looking in the snow not far from the top. In front of me, Mike Groom, a Hall guide, kept stopping and looking behind, keeping an eye on the slow-motion client Yasuko Namba, whom I had to pass on the narrow ridge before the Step. Martin Adams, another of my team, came by me on his way down and stuck his hand up with the five fingers splayed.

We had taken nearly 14 hours to go 2, feet!

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Then the never-ending ridge ended; there was a group of people on a small crest of snow… and nothing else. Though a stiff wind was blowing, the sky was a deep blue, and there was a mile view all around. I felt more relief than elation that I had arrived… and a deep fear that this was not a place meant for humans. We were hanging it waaaaay out.

I checked my watch: p. When Tim arrived behind a slow pack, I told Neal I was going down. But Neal wanted to keep our group together. Minutes ticked by as we waited for the last of our team to arrive, have their photographs taken, and shake hands all around. It was on the way down that I first noticed clouds blowing up from below. We had seen this phenomenon often enough in the last month—the clouds rose in the afternoon from the humid lowlands of Nepal and rolled up the Khumbu Icefall toward the Lhotse Face.

These clouds looked a little more black and menacing, but at least we were headed down. One by one, we climbed back down the Hillary Step, tiptoed across the narrowest part of the climb to the South Summit, and just when I thought we could really make some time to the Balcony, Sandy, just behind me, went from tired and slow to stop.

She told me to leave her. I encouraged her to find the strength to keep going, the best reason being her son, Bo. She struggled, but collapsed again, clinging to a thin piece of line. I had forgotten that Ingrid Hunt, our expedition doctor, had given us all a shot of dex- amethasone, a steroid effective in reducing cerebral edema and a last-ditch chance for survival in situations such as this. Sandy rolled over. In five minutes or so Sandy recovered enough to be assisted down by Neal, who had by then caught up to us with most of the rest of our group.

Only Scott remained behind with Lobsang.


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  • We passed Scott a few minutes below the summit while he was still on his way up and exchanged weak high fives. None of us knew he was hurting. And at this point he was still moving—all that counts. Our little group continued its way down to the Balcony, where I caught up to Kiev Schoening, who was just leaving to follow Martin down the mountain.

    Can you wait a few minutes? Behind Sandy and the rest of our friends we could see Scott, still stumbling along in the company of Lobsang. At this point I checked my watch and took the opportunity to change my headlamp battery. It was six p. We all plunged off the Balcony together into a surprising six to eight inches of new snow.

    The storm had been more serious than we realized. Suddenly, there was an alarming crack and flash—thunder and lightning, above meters. At last we made our way to the final fixed line. Camp IV could be seen not far below us. But, as we were nearing the end of the rope, everyone in our group became backed up as Mike Groom attempted to assist Yasuko and teammate Beck Weathers. They were sitting in the snow, immobile. Neal proceeded to help Yasuko, while Mike took Beck. At this moment the storm closed in on us and sealed in the darkness of night.

    I took one last look at the tents—so close—and then kept moving with the others. We spent an interminable time descending carefully in the darkness and increasing wind, spreading out individually in our search for camp. The ground flattened out; we were walking among oxygen bottles, but still no tents. Ecclesiastes New King James Version To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, And a time to die; A time to plant, And a time to pluck what is planted; A time to kill, And a time to heal; A time to break down, And a time to build up; A time to weep, And a time to laugh; A time to mourn, And a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, And a time to gather stones; A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing; A time to gain, And a time to lose; A time to keep, And a time to throw away; A time to tear, And a time to sew; A time to keep silence, And a time to speak; A time to love, And a time to hate; A time of war, And a time of peace.

    Ecclesiastes King James Version To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; A time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; A time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; A time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; A time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; A time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; A time of war, and a time of peace.

    And there is a time for every event under heaven— A time to give birth and a time to die; A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted. A time to kill and a time to heal; A time to tear down and a time to build up. A time to weep and a time to laugh; A time to mourn and a time to dance.

    A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones; A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing. A time to search and a time to give up as lost; A time to keep and a time to throw away.

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    A time to tear apart and a time to sew together; A time to be silent and a time to speak. A time to love and a time to hate; A time for war and a time for peace. Share Flipboard Email. Mary Fairchild is a full-time Christian minister, writer, and editor of two Christian anthologies, including "Stories of Cavalry.

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