The Accident at Tashi Lapso Pass, Part Four: Thangbo

With badly broken tibia and fibula bones, Louise Currie, Lakpa and Uttum are currently 0-2 in the ‘luck’ stakes. First, no mobile phone coverage and in part three, no helicopter for an air-evacuation and urgently needed medical treatment. In part four, Plan B turns out to be every bit as treacherous as getting off the Ngole glacier. 

 

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Thangbo village. Plenty of room for a helicopter to land, just... no helicopter. (pic. Louise Currie)

Thangbo village. Plenty of room for a helicopter to land, just… no helicopter. (pic. Louise Currie)

 

As the tangible disappointment of neither Nima or a helicopter waiting for us when we made it to Thangbo began to dissipate, we took a well-earned break while deciding what to do.

From the time just after the accident until now, I had felt relatively calm and secure that things would fall into place: that after Nima had made contact with Bijay in Lukla, a helicopter rescue back to Kathmandu would be organised for today. But the emptiness of Thangbo, the freezing temperature and a growing weariness from sitting in a basket with a broken leg and a desperately full bladder brought me close to despair.

Lakpa said we had no choice but to walk to Thame, although it might take us another three hours to get there. Even if we arrived too late for the helicopter to come that day, there were a couple of lodges there that would be open and we could make phone calls. I started trying to adjust to the possibility that we might not get back to Kathmandu at all today.  Instead, I would be spending the night in a basic lodge with an untreated broken leg that was still bleeding badly.

If the day had already been bad, things didn’t improve upon leaving Thangbo. Whereas the landscape difficulties around Ngole were related to the gradient of the slopes and the slippery moraine rock, Thangbo was surrounded by a mosaic of small rivers, most of them flowing but covered over with thick ice. These were difficult and time-consuming to cross two days ago when we were coming up and everyone was healthy.

This time, Lakpa and Uttam were taking it in turns carrying me, trying to find a safe way through the iced rivers. They walked this way and that, then backtracked when they could find no safe way to cross. They helped each other across the smaller rivers, threw piles of stones on the bigger ones to try to create a safe footing across and kept fingers crossed when there was no choice but to pick a way across metres of ice. Again, I waited for us to slip or fall but just like earlier in the trek down, it never happened. It eventually took us over an hour just to cover the 150 metres below Thangbo, and though we’d made it through the treacherous river crossings, I began to despair that we could even get back to Thame before it got dark. It had become very, very cold, and as much I appreciated their efforts, I was becoming more uncomfortable in the doko.

After this we started picking up pace again, but I kind of retreated into myself and became less aware of my surroundings for a while. I didn’t lose consciousness but certainly slipped into a lower level of consciousness. Despite the splint and the layers of material covering this, my leg had been slowly bleeding since this morning and was aching because of the broken bones, the cold, the basket, and the movement of being carried. My arms were exhausted from trying to hold the leg together for more than 4 hours, my back and neck ached from trying to keep my neck at the required 45 degree angle in the doko. I was very cold, I couldn’t talk anymore and my thoughts had slowed down too. Now Lakpa was asking me every ten minutes if I was okay and all I could do was grunt in reply. Every fifty metres, whomever was carrying me would put the basket down to rest and to check on me but all I could do was lean my head against whomever was propping up the basket.

We pressed on, but eventually I reached the stage where I could barely tolerate being carried by Uttam. His walking style was jolting the basket too much and the pain was becoming too much to bear.  Although I felt bad for Uttam who was trying as best he could, I pleaded with an exhausted Lakpa to once again take up the load.

No one had eaten anything since 8:30 that morning. That wasn’t a problem for me, but it must have been incredibly difficult for the two of them – sharing the carrying of this 70 kilogram load for so many hours. In all of that time too, they never complained or commented on just how difficult the whole thing must have been for them.

They are remarkably tough.

About Louise Currie

Originally from Australia, although I have been living in Nepal since 2005. I worked for a long time for an international aid agency in Kathmandu. I am interested in community development and having adventures in remote places. I am married with one daughter.

Comments

  1. Amazing Louise, I can’t believe you are still with it, or that you haven’t passed out.
    It is amazing how the body can adjust and settle in times like this, when subconsciously you know know there is no respite for an unknown amount of time.

    And the dexterity of your Sherpas crossing the ice with the laden doko!!

    Being school holidays, I’ve been able to lie in bed with a coffee and catchup on each part. Thanks, even though a tough experience, an engaging read.

    Looking forward to the conclusion

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