The Accident at Tashi Lapso Pass, Part Two: Stranded in Ngloe

When we left Louise in part one, she and her team were stranded on the Ngole Glacier in the Tashi Lapso Pass. In part two, the party must find a way – if they can – to get to safety and some seriously needed medical attention…

 

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I have been in these places many times before and the surrounding environment was generally familiar. What wasn’t familiar this time though, was the feeling of being so very vulnerable and in such a precarious situation.

We realised that we had made one serious error in our trip planning: we had not included a satellite phone. This would have made it possible for us to at least call someone immediately, even if air rescue here was not possible. But in planning for the trip, we had been told by so many people that there is mobile coverage everywhere in the Solu-Khumbu region these days and we had believed them.

Lakpa asked me, “what are we going to do?” I snapped at him. “As the guide, you are going to have to work that one out.” But we were all in shock right then. Even Lakpa, with his Everest climbing experience and knowledge about high altitude rescue, was unable to think of a solution to our problem in those first few minutes.

By now Nima had caught up with the group. Lakpa called him over and gave him the important set of instructions that would eventually lead to my evacuation.

The instructions were delivered in their native Sherpa language – which I’m not overly fluent in – but I did make out the words ‘Thame’, ‘phone’, ‘Bijay’ and ‘helicopter’. Nima dropped his load on one of the moraine rocks and immediately set off, back down towards the glacier.

Lakpa said, “I have told Nima to run down to Thame village and use the phone there to contact Bijay so he can request a helicopter to come to Thame to evacuate you.” Thame is a populated village at 3,800 metres that not only has landline phones but is also served by the mobile phone network.

Helicopters, which regularly provide rescue services to trekkers and climbers in the Everest region, could land in Thame but possibly also even in Thangbo, the next village up the valley, at 4,300 metres.

My husband Bijay was with our toddler daughter and our second guide, Sanghe, down in a village near Lukla. They were having their own low altitude trek and our original plan was that once we had completed our journey to the pass, then descended, we would rejoin them and together return to Kathmandu.

After Nima left, we still needed to get off the glacier and down the valley so that we could meet the helicopter, if and when it came.

 

Tashi Lapsa Pass via http://www.google.com.au/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0CAYQjB0&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.himalayanmagictreks.com%2Fnepal%2Ftrekking-in-nepal%2Feverest-trek%2Frolwaling-tashi-lapsa-pass-trek.html&ei=S9SxVJvOGeGNmwXr-oLwCw&bvm=bv.83339334,d.dGY&psig=AFQjCNGe91Xku5-N-CJ_ozIti0XzPGzE7A&ust=1421026736177717

Tashi Lapsa Pass via http://www.himalayanmagictreks.com

 

Lakpa pointed to one of the dokos and said to me, ‘I will carry you down in that.’ A doko is a large, cone-shaped basket made from bamboo and is used by millions of village-based Nepalis across the country for a wide variety of purposes like transporting agricultural produce to market and collect animal fodder. Trekking and camping groups use them to transport tents, stoves and other camping gear. Dokos are also regularly used to transport sick or injured village people – sometimes even women in labour – down to health posts and hospitals.

A rope is tied around the base of the doko basket which connects to a strap that the Nepali villager will place over his or her forehead to carry the basket which rests against their back. The person being carried faces backwards.

I accepted the idea of the doko knowing it was probably our only option for me to get down the valley. I had seen people being carried in dokos previously in various parts of Nepal, but they invariably seemed to be small people – lightweight Nepalis or Asian tourists or even children. I am a five foot, eight inch Caucasian woman, who, including the thick jacket and walking boots I was wearing at the time, probably weighed in at around 70 kilos.

Lakpa himself was taller and heavier than many Sherpas and probably weighed the same as me. He was suggesting carrying a person of the same weight as himself in a traditional basket over some of the most treacherous landscape in the mountains. It was a three-to-four hour walk down to Thangbo village and another two-to-three hours after that to Thame. When I questioned him whether it was going to be possible, he said, “what other choice do we have?”

He got out a pocketknife and cut a rectangular piece from the top of the doko where my legs would hang. He and the three porters filled the doko with soft objects such as sleeping bags, camp mattresses and his own down jacket to make the seat. The rope was secured around the base and the namlo (head strap) fastened to the top. The rope looked thin and breakable to me. ‘What if it breaks while you’re carrying me?’, I asked. ‘It won’t’, he replied. When the doko seat was ready, Lakpa pulled it upright into position.

Sitting in the doko meant having both of my legs hanging over the side but this obviously wasn’t going to be possible for the broken left leg. Having calmed down and collected my own thoughts a little by now, I said to Lakpa and the group, ‘We need to make a splint for my leg’.   The porters shook their heads – how could we do this out in this remote area?   As far as I was concerned, with three baskets of camping equipment, we had plenty of scope to fashion a makeshift splint. However, nobody including Lakpa, seemed to know how to do this so I sat on the camp mattress giving out instructions.

First two tent poles were pulled out and these were aligned on each side of my leg from heel to knee. The poles were then carefully tied on with whatever we could lay our hands on which turned out to be a bath towel, a pashmina shawl and headscarf donated by one of the women porters. Finally a piece of thin rope was tied to the shawl and looped under my foot to keep it stable. The splint was makeshift but it was going to be vital for keeping my foot stable over the coming indeterminate number of hours until I could get to a hospital. It was also going to be important for stemming the bleeding where the bone had broken through the skin on my lower leg. At one point Lakpa suggested removing my boot in case my foot swelled but I was worried that the foot would get cold so it stayed on.

As gently as they could, the three porters then lifted me into the doko while Lakpa held it steady. Without further ado, he bent down, pulled the strap over his forehead and, gripping the ropes securing the namlo, stood up with me in the doko on his back.

 

 

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. Hi Louise,

    I think you could have been a guide because you have instructed guides how to carry you to the village and Lakpa asked you what you wanted.

    Also you could suggest the community to produce bigger doko so that western people can accommodate in any emergency case like you experienced (sorry to hear about your one).

    Once again, you contribute good writing, Louise.

    Best Wishes

    Yoshi

  2. Louise Currie says

    Hi Yoshi

    Actually your idea about the bigger doko is an excellent idea. They do come in different shapes and sizes but are not usually designed for carrying big westerner’s with log legs!

    Louise

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