An American climber believed to have died in a fierce blizzard on Mount Everest descended to a 20,000-foot pass Monday, where a helicopter swooped him up and carried him to safety.
A fading radio transmission carried a sadder message to another climber's pregnant wife: A friend said Monday that a New Zealand climber, crippled with frostbite but able to operate his radio, had a final conversation with his wife before perishing alone near the mountain's peak.The New Zealander, Rob Hall, was one of eight climbers who remained missing and were presumed killed by the harsh conditions on the famed 29,028-foot mountain. Everest has claimed more than 100 people since it was first conquered 44 years ago.
Thirty mountaineers were on Everest when the storm hit Friday, bringing temperatures of 40 below zero and whipping winds. Twenty-two climbers were treated on the mountain for frostbite and other injuries and were continuing their descent, said Jeff Herr of Outside Online, a magazine published on the Internet that has monitored one of the trapped expeditions.
One of the survivors was 49-year-old Seaborne B. Weathers of Dallas, who was rescued Monday by a Nepalese army helicopter chartered by the U.S. Embassy.
"I am OK, I'm better now," Weathers said after he was flown to the Nepalese capital, Katmandu.
Weathers, who was part of a Swedish expedition, suffered facial burns from high winds and severe frostbite on both hands.
The storm hit as Weathers was just 400 feet below Everest's peak. It was too dark to continue, so he squatted on a rocky ledge without oxygen or anything to drink.
"When I was climbing Mount Everest on Friday, I had trouble in my eyes, suffering from visual difficulties," he said.
On Saturday, Weathers made it down to South Col, a 26,400-foot pass that is the final staging ground before the last leg to the peak. More than 20 others had taken shelter there overnight.
Weathers walked down to Camp II on Sunday, about 5,000 feet below South Col, and climbed down 1,000 more feet Monday to Camp I, just below the ice fall where the Nepalese helicopter picked him up.
At Katmandu airport, Weathers walked to an ambulance with the help of David Schensted, an official of the U.S. Embassy.