Rescue on Annapurna: Miracle with question marks

Helicopter rescue on the long rope

Many call it the “little miracle” on Annapurna. For more than 43 hours, Malaysian mountaineer Wui Kin Chin survived at an altitude of 7,500 meters – left alone, without a tent, without bottled oxygen, without water. On Thursday, he was discovered by helicopter during a search flight. A four-man Nepalese rescue team – Nirmal Purja, Mingma David Sherpa, Galgen Sherpa and Gesman Tamang – was dropped at Camp 3 at 6,500 meters, climbed up to Chin in strong winds, provided first aid and then took him down to Camp 3 until late in the night.

From there, the 49-year-old was flown yesterday to a hospital in Kathmandu after a stopover at base camp. According to the doctors, he arrived at the hospital in a critical condition, with low heart rate and body temperature and frostbite on his hands and feet. The fact that he is still alive is due to the great performance of the rescue team, including the helicopter pilots of “Simrik Air”.

The four rescuers

Chin was reported missing on Wednesday. The Malaysian had been one of 32 climbers who had reached the summit of Annapurna at 8,091 meters on Tuesday. Among them were 17 Climbing Sherpas. So first I asked myself two questions: How could it happen that he was left behind alone? Did nobody care about him? I contacted the expedition operator “Seven Summit Treks”, whose clients included Chin.

“The Sherpa stayed with Chin for a long time”

Wui Kin Chin on arrival at the hospital

Chin had had problems already on the ascent, board director Chhang Dawa Sherpa replied: “While descending he was totally weak, not able to walk even one step. His personal Sherpa tried a lot to descend together with him, but he couldn’t.” According to Dawa’s words, the Sherpa stayed with Chin for a long time. He, too, was in a bad state and suffered from frostbite. When the bottled oxygen ran out, the Sherpa decided to descend to the base camp to search for help. According to still unconfirmed reports, the Sherpa fell during the descent and injured his spine. It remains to be hoped that he will not suffer any permanent damage.

Open questions

Chhang Dawa Sherpa wrote me that he wants to talk to Wui Kin Chin at the hospital about the summit day as soon as the Malaysian is better. Many questions remain unanswered – such as these: Why did Chin climb to the highest point and no one made him turn back when he was already feeling bad during the ascent? Did none of the other 30 climbers notice that Chin got into trouble on the descent? Why didn’t the Sherpa, who stayed with his client, have a radio with him to sound the alarm earlier?

Nirmal Purja before the rescue mission

Update 10.15 pm: Nirmal Purja, one of the rescuers, makes serious accusations against “Global Rescue”, the rescue compan Chin was a member of. The dramatic worsening of the situation, according to “Nims” on Facebook, could have been avoided if the company had acted faster: “After knowing that Dr Chin was missing, I held my team and some of the strongest members on the expedition for the rescue of Dr Chin at Camp 4. We were waiting for oxygen to get dropped off at us by helicopter so we could go start searching for him on the mountain. (This is all what his insurance company had to do , just drop six bottles of oxygen at Camp 4 where I was on standby with my rescue team.) I was told that the rescue company denied the emergency help and I couldn’t hold my team any longer at the extreme altitude risking their life.”

13 Replies to “Rescue on Annapurna: Miracle with question marks”

  1. Our ( Simrik air rescue team ) small support to Malaysian climber .. it was happy to be drop all sherpa camp lll .
    It was faster then all sherpa walk along the c l to c lll . We save more then 15 hour for wui kin chin .
    Recover soon
    Regard

    1. Thank you Simrik air. Is it possible for a helicopter to drop oxygen tanks at c4 7100m?

  2. Nobody should be climbing with oxygen anymore. If you need oxygen do a lower peak. Quite simple really. Messenger set the bar a long time ago

    1. Richle – Your comment indicates a significant lack of understanding on your part re what sport is about .
      ‘Sporting’ achievements have many components.
      Some may choose to summit without supplementary Oxygen, some without ropes, some without other team members, Some twice in a week without oxygen, fixed ropes or other team members, some (perhaps) hopping backwards on one leg and/or wearing shorts and a T-shirt and bare feet, or … .
      Each can choose what to achieve and how to achieve it, and can decide what makes it special and significant for them.
      Reinhold Messner (NOT Messenger) is a very great man indeed. Few can aspire to his feats of performance and endurance. The fact that the very large majority of climbers never can approach his greatness in no way means that “nobody should be climbing with Oxygen anymore”. To countenance such ludicrous suggestions puts one on the trail to suggestions that eg “Everyone should climb Everest twice in a week and without using fixed ropes or Oxygen or other team members, as Kilian Jornet did (or claims to have done) in 2017. Yes?

      Russell McMahon
      New Zealand.
      Homeland of half of the original Everest team.

  3. I saw a clip from Dr Chin’s personal sherpa’s facebook clearly showing Dr Chin ascending and it was very apparent he was struggling with Ms. He had trouble cordinating his legs then. How he got to the peak is anyones guess and why the sherpa did not raise the alarm is alarming itself as he video’d the said clip.
    This sherpa was employed by Dr Chin and not employed by Seven Summits, as I later read.
    Some accounts of the personal sherpa injuring himself on his way down alone are as well exagerated. He is no longer warded in hospital unlike Dr Chin who fights for his life.
    I can only assume the team leader is in charge of the entire team and wonder how he was aparently unaware that someone was falling behind? Or suffering from Ms? Do they not have walkie talkies or a way to communicate to the front group what goes on behind?
    As for Global Rescue who initially refused the rescue, there are many obovious false alarms for rescues that set back insurance companies in the millions. See the link below :

    https://www.independent.co.uk/travel/news-and-advice/nepal-everest-helicopter-scams-evacuation-rescue-travel-insurance-a8745601.html

    My two cents are:
    Dr Chin should have aborted the climb when he was struggling on the ascent.
    His personal sherpa and team leader were obviously not communicating and the sherpa clearly ignored his clients MS which later got them both close to extreme danger.
    Seven Summits and the team leader should be clear and precise and explain their failure to notice a team member was never behind and stop pushing the blame to the no show by Global Rescue.
    Global Resue should inform every climber before pruchasing their insurance, the exact height their heli rescue will fly to. They clearly refused to deploy a heli that needed to fly higher then the insured altitude as
    the Number 1 rule in SAR is Danger – Ensure the area is safe or risk is mitigated before attempting the rescue.
    The heli that flew to rescue Dr Chin am assuming was paid a hefty price by Dr Chin’s family in exchange for this risky rescue attempt.

  4. Nims is being unfair to Global Rescue. It is well know that insurance fraud has gone through the roof in Nepal. In particular, Seven Summits and Global Rescue have had a testy relationship. Global Rescue has had issues with non payments and irregularities with Seven Summits. See:

    https://explorersweb.com/2018/09/07/himalayan-trekking-company-fined-in-fake-permit-scam/

    Climbers should check with their insurance providers whether their particular tour/climb operator is on the “black list”

    I am really sorry for Wui Kin and wish him a speedy recovery.

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