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Everest Supercouloir: "What is a summit compared to a friend's life?"
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Jun 3, 2005 10: 50 EST
A fast response, common sense and unabated support from skilled team-mates saved Hirotaka’s life. Ralf Dujmovits, Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner and Hirotaka Takeuchi were on their BC-to-summit Supercouloir push on Everest’s north face, when the Japanese climber fell sick.

Climbing on the North Ridge in the morning he had been perfectly fit, but once in the tent his state rapidly deteriorated – to a scary level.

Cerebral edema

“We were at 7650m. Hiro lost the capacity of talking, and his pulse dropped to 50 bits per minute. His body was so cold, that Gerlinde had a tough time trying to find a vein to administer Dexamethasone,” Ralf told Deutsche-Welle reporter Stefan Nestler, who was with the climbers in the team’s lonely BC on the central Rongbuk Glacier, unable to do anything.

“Hiro’s eyes were wide open, but it was as if he was not there anymore. After a while he opened his clenched teeth and spat blood.”

Without losing a second, Gerlinde and Ralf put Hiro in their down suit and got him in the feather sleeping bag. Then they called a doctor in Austria over satellite phone asking for further advice.

”Take a picture before I die”

“Gerlinde and Ralf stayed awake all night, treating Hiro with altitude drugs. Eventually, he got better. At one point, he asked Ralf to take a picture of him before he died.”

Ralf and Gerlinde kept their cool. They knew exactly what to do. As Hiro got better, and capable of moving, he would have to get down by his own power. “I’ll belay him with a rope, and we will traverse to Everest’s normal route on the north side,” dispatched Ralf over the radio.

“Hiro is getting better and better as we lose altitude,” was the message the next morning from the north ridge at 7000. “Now he can rappel down as a young God.”

The team reached ABC on the Normal route and got help from Russell Brice’s team. Russell quickly provided the climbers with a tent, food and drinks. Hiro immediately fell asleep.

Friendship works miracles

The team rested in Brice’s camp while the blizzard whipped Everest’s north side two nights ago. Yesterday all three reached their own BC, by the lonely north face. “Today was the day the team had planned for the summit. They would have liked to stand on the top together. However, what’s in a summit, compared to the life of a friend?”

“Now Hiro is sitting with us at the table in BC’s mess tent, very weak but alive and kicking… Almost a miracle!”

Yes, almost. But those who ever got into trouble while on the mountain know well, as Hiro does, how important it is to climb with friends.

German climber Ralf Dujmovits, Austrian Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, and Japanese climber Hirotaka Takeuchi have rejoined forces this spring for some doubleheader action in the Himalaya.

Their first – accomplished – goal was an Alpine style climb on Sihsha Pangma’s South Face. They summited on May 8th and traversed to the north side.

The second goal, also in alpine style, was Everest North Face though the Supercouloir (combination route on the Japanese Ridge and Hornbein Couloir).The team launched their summit bid aiming to reach the top on June 1st, but they were forced to abort at 7650 m. when Hirotaka suffered from Cerebral edema. Ralf and Gerlinde look after Hiro and helped him down.

Ralf Dujmovits started climbing at the age of 7 at The Battert, a climbing school near Baden-Baden (Southern Germany). Currently he is in charge of Amical Alpine, and has summited 10 8000ers: Dhaulagiri in 1990, Everest in 1992, K2 in 1994, Cho Oyu (1) in 1995, Shisha Pangma Central Summit in 1996, Shisha Pangma main Summit in 1997, Cho Oyu (2) in 1998, Broad Peak in 1999, GII in 2000, Nanga Parbat in 2001, Annapurna I in 2004, GI in 2004. He has guided teams on all those peaks, except Annapurna.

In 2004, Ralf, Gerlinde and Hirotaka summited Annapurna, after a serious attempt on Shisha Pangma South Face. In summer, they planned on climbing both Gasherbrums and K2, but poor weather conditions left them with only enough time to summit GI.

Ace female climber, Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, has summited Cho Oyu, Makalu, Manaslu, Nanga Parbat, Annapurna and most recently Gasherbrum I: Six 8,000ers. Gerlinde is considered one of the top female high altitude climbers and is the 6th woman to reach Anna's summit. She has also summited Shisha Pangma Central and Broad Peak.

Japanese climber Hirotaka has summited Makalu, Everest, K2, Nanga Parbat, and in 2004, he summited Annapurna and GI. He summited Everest and K2 back to back in 1996 and, at the age of 25, became the youngest climber to summit the world's two highest mountains. He now has six 8,000ers.

Image of Ralf and Gerlinde helping and cheering up Hiro at their arrival to their BC, by Stefan Nestler, courtesy of Stefan Nestler’s Everest-blog,Deutsche Welle/DW-World.de.

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