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IAF's Everest summiteer missing
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Jun 1, 2005 11: 42 EST
30th May, three members of the IAF team summited Everest from the North. They were Wg Cdr RC Tripathi (0515h), Sgt NR Chaudhuri (0630h) and Sqn Ldr SS Chaitanya (0945h). Now, Indian media reports that a member of the summit team of the Indian Air Force, Sqn Ldr S S Chaitanya, is missing.

Late summit, winds picked up on descent

Chaithanya and a sherpa, who were the last in the team to scale the peak on May 30, had started their descent to the Advance Base Camp almost two hours behind the first group of summitteers when a blizzard struck at about 1700 hours, an IAF spokesman said. However, the sherpa, who was accompanying Chaithanya, reached the camp and informed others that he had lost contact with the Squadron Leader during the blizzard, according to media.

Although the winds did pick up Monday morning, at least 25 more climbers ascended the mountain May 31st.

Ran out of oxygen?

Duncan Chessell, who was up there Sunday night with the teams summiteer Julian (and reportedly had to turn back himself due to oxygen failure), wrote: “Julian’s summit panorama video and stills shots are amazing and show just how good their weather was – little to no wind – zero clouds – a fairytale come true."

"Sadly this was not the case for one of the climbers who summited about 10am. He ran out of oxygen between the 1st and 2nd Step. His Sherpa tried to assist him, but when he broke a crampon everything slowed down even more and he was unable to move. His Sherpa then returned to high camp, arriving very late (7-8pm??). So at this stage the team is trying to work out how to get back up to the summit ridge to find their missing team mate.”

It's unclear if the climber went on the troubled Summit Oxygen system. The IAF team carried both; "We're using the Summit system. However, we are also carrying the POISK system, mainly because the Sherpas are comfortable with it," they told ExWeb in an interview.

Amit Chowdhury 46, leads the IAF team. An experienced climber he led the Jadavpur University team to climb all three Jogin peaks (Garhwal Himalaya) including the virgin Jogin II in 1980. Later he led expeditions to Sudarshan, Jaonli, CB53/54, Habuman Tibba, Deo Tibba, and was a member of expeditions to Satopanth, Kamet West Ridge and Principal of the Indian Institute of Skiing and Mountaineering in Gulmarg, Kashmir.

Image of the view from Everest camp 4, courtesy of Serac Films.

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