Everest Revelation: A Clarification (Cont.)
Response from Lopsang Jangbu Sherpa
August 11, 1996
400 Market Street
Santa Fe, NM 87501
Dear Mr. Editor:
I am writing to you in response to the "Into Thin Air" piece written by Jon Krakauer, published in your September, 1996, issue.
I came to Seattle to attend Scott Fischer's memorial service and stayed there throughout the summer. Jon didn't interview me until after he had already written and submitted his "Thin Air" piece. As a result many false and negative allegations were made against my group, led by Scott Fischer concerning the disaster that occurred on Everest on May 10, 1996. In particular, I was singled out as contributing to these tragic events. Krakauer's reputation as an outstanding writer makes his slanderous view of my character and work habits very damaging. Because your readers have been misinformed, I would like to clear up these errors.
My choice to summit Everest without oxygen was questioned by him. I have summited Everest three times without oxygen before this year's expedition, (not two as mentioned), and will continue to do so on future expeditions. Krakauer neglected to mention that on summit day of Rob Hall's 1995 Everest expedition, I broke trail through deep snow and then fixed ropes from the south summit to the top. There I waited for one hour for other team members, who unlike myself, were using oxygen. No one else came.
Scott Fischer did not order me, nor did Sandy Pittman offer a "hefty" cash bonus to short-rope her to make it to the top. On ten other expeditions, I have short-roped any team member who has trouble. This year it was Sandy. I wanted to ensure that all group members had a good chance of making the summit. This was my goal, our team's goal. I worked very hard on this expedition and all members of my group would agree. I do not understand how Krakauer, involved in a different expedition, could write statements that judge my work habits or intentions.
With regard to the "Goldbrick" comment, you may wish to know that I netted $2,000 for this expedition, not to mention that fact that to save Sandy Pittman, I gave her my personal oxygen bottle on the way up, at 8,820 meters. I also carried an 80-pound load from Camp III to Camp IV the day prior to the summit bid, which included 30 pounds of other member's personal gear. There was no personal financial incentive for this. Money is not important for me. I always give my best, I am my father's only child and I have many uncles and family. We help each other and live very well in Kathmandu. To be described as a "Goldbrick" is completely false.
I was also referred to as a "showboat" to which I have this reply. Just below the summit of Everest, I anchored my ice ax and fixed a 15-meter rope at a dangerous spot so that all remaining team members could get down safely. I then waited for Scott to arrive. He finally arrived very late and we started down. Just as we reached my ice ax, Rob Hall and Doug Hansen were coming up my rope. After they passed, I sent Scott down and waited next to my ice ax in wind and extreme cold for them to summit and return so that they could get safely down. Once they were off my rope, I left and quickly caught Scott. From the South Summit I physically dragged him down through the storm until he could go no further. There I waited with Scott, determined to save him or die. Finally, he threatened me to save myself, saying he would jump off if I did not go down. I was, in fact, the last person to leave Scott Fischer and Makalu Gau that night. (Jon incorrectly states that three Sherpas were the last.)
In reference to the complaint about the fixing of the lines, let it be understood that on all expeditions, whoever goes first from Camp IV is supposed to fix ropes. Rob Hall's group left 45 minutes ahead of us. In my group there were two guides who were paid considerably more money than me—Anatoli (Boukreev) and Neal (Beidleman). That these strong professional guides sat on the South Summit waiting for "sherpas" or me to come up and fix lines for them seems ridiculous.
Krakauer makes references to my vomiting, implying that I was weak and unable to do my job; that it affected my performance. This too was wrong. I have been over 8,000 meters many times, and each time I vomit. It is just something that happens to me and has nothing to do with altitude sickness. I have done it on all expeditions. It just happens. I did it at Camp I, II, etc. On the way to the summit, Neal Beidleman saw me vomit and also misunderstood this. He took the load of ropes out of my pack and took off in the lead with Anatoli. I assumed they would fix lines for the group. My job then became that of seeing to the rest of the team, making sure they got to the summit. I in no way "lost sight of what I was supposed to be doing up there..." It would have been very bad for all three guides to go ahead and summit without the others. Again, I was doing my job. I thought that Neal and Anatoli were doing theirs. Also, if I was sick and weak, then why would I wait so long on the summit for Scott, Rob Hall and Doug Hansen? If I was sick and weak, how could I spend seven hours dragging Scott back down from the South Summit?
My name is misspelled and my age misrepresented. So you know, my name is Lopsang Jangbu Sherpa and I am 23 years old.
Finally, I express my profound condolences to the family and friends of the victims.
Lopsang Jangbu Sherpa