A French mountaineer has described how she was forced to abandon her weak and ailing climbing partner in order to be rescued from one of Pakistan’s most deadly Himalayan mountains.
Elisabeth Revol told AFP news agency that Polish climber Tomasz Mackiewicz’s health worsened as they descended Nanga Parbat, nicknamed “Killer Mountain”.
Only she was rescued by an elite Polish climbing team in a dramatic operation.
Doctors in France are now assessing whether she will require amputations.
Rescuers could not reach Mr Mackiewicz and it is thought unlikely he could have survived.
Among her recollections, Ms Revol said that altitude-induced hallucinations had caused her to take a shoe off in freezing conditions.
‘Blood streaming from mouth’
The pair began climbing on 20 January, and within a few days were approaching the summit.
But shortly after they reached the peak of the 8,120m (26,640ft) mountain, Mr Mackiewicz complained that he could not see.
Ms Revol told AFP: “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].”
He then clung to her shoulders as they began the difficult descent in darkness. Mr Mackiewicz, she said, began to have trouble breathing.
“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.”
They huddled overnight in a crevasse but his condition deteriorated further with “blood streaming from his mouth” – a sign of a build up of fluid in the body, the ultimate stage of acute altitude sickness.
Barefoot after hallucinations
She sent several messages for help and was told by rescuers to go down to 6,000m. She then left Mr Mackiewicz behind. “It wasn’t a decision I made, it was imposed on me,” she said.
Thinking that help would arrive quickly, Ms Revol left without carrying a tent or a duvet. When rescuers did not turn up, she was forced to spend another night in a crevasse.
In the interview, she described having altitude-induced hallucinations. She imagined that people were bringing her hot tea, and that in order to thank them, she had to give them her shoe.
After being barefoot for five hours, Ms Revol developed frostbite.
She heard helicopters but, because of the strong winds, they could not reach her. Fearing that she would have to spend another night there, Ms Revol began a final descent, with wet gloves and frozen feet, and managed to reach one of the rescue teams.
She was flown to hospital in Islamabad and then on to Switzerland, before being transported across the French border.
Doctors in the Haute-Savoie region of eastern France are now assessing whether she will require amputations to her hands and left foot due to frostbite.
Despite the ordeal, she has not ruled out climbing again, saying: “I need this.”