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  Everest 2004 George Dijmarescu: May God rest Hristo's soul


©George Dijmarescu from his 2004 climb on the Summit of Everest!

Dear EverestNews.com readers: At home at last, after many days in Kathmandu and almost worn out of airline delays (ticket with American Airline, flight on Japan Airline, first leg schedule with Royal Nepal but canceled and retrieved the luggage and dumped on Thai Air to Bangkok) and that's the nature of traveling almost around the world. At least we got to eat with stainless steel silver ware not plastic and the drink was on the airlines and not at $5.00 a beer such was the American Airline, it seem to me that the American Airline want to keep aloft with some drinks served, pretty pricey, don't you think?. Beside I noticed the Asian companies don't have any fear of some hijacking with a dull little knife, I felt so secure.

Although this is not my final summit report, I like to take some space and clear some of the misunderstandings regarding my encounter with the Bulgarian climbers and especially with Hristo Hristov, the climber who died above the second step on Mt. Everest.

After browsing for any articles and posting with my name, I noticed fierce criticism in the Bulgarian media about me leaving Hristo on the summit and not helping him. While I realized it was created out of some confusion from my last dispatch, I need to tell them and to those who care the facts, which can be corroborated by witnesses (many).

First: NO ONE has asked me  or any members of my team (Connecticut Everest expedition 2004) for HELP of any kind, not even a sip of liquid.

Second: As mention above, I wasn't teamed up with Bulgarian expedition and morally responsible (just like my team members) ONLY for my colleagues.

Third: On a climb of this magnitude NO ONE tells anybody how, when or if to climb, is assumed that the climbers have extensive climbing experience and are expected to be self sufficient at any time on the climb.

Forth: Several climbers from the Bulgarian expedition made the decision to climb "pure" (without the use of Oxygen), it was their decision and I don't believe was imposed on them by anybody, therefore they weighted the risk and accepted the consequences.

I summited Everest without Oxygen in 2000 and I know darn well how's to be up there without Oxygen and alone, yes I reached the summit alone at 3:30 PM (Nepali time) and came back to 8300 m camp at 10:30 PM (Nepali time), I walked a thin line, I gambled and I won but not everybody is as lucky. One also will have to consider a sudden change in weather and that can be the "making or breaking" of the climb and that's what happened on the early morning hours of May 20th. We all started (I assure you) on a clear sky night with all the stars there are. It is rather difficult to precisely identify who is climbing next to you or even less who is above or bellow you. It is also difficult to know at what time climbers start for the summit attempt (climbers keep this, including ourselves, secret, due to traffic jam). I will pause here and ask to concentrate on what I am writing, this information might not sound important to "non climbers with big mouths" but is important piece of information, if you want to piece together the true story, as I saw it. IT IS A CONFUSION, the climbers are almost choked with fear, especially those who never been above last camp, some still trying to piece together or picture in their left over memories how the first, second or third step might look, can I climb it fast so I can make good time, are those descriptions in the books I read accurate or (as I now believe), they are some sort of exaggerations intentionally made to sell a book, who to believe, so far has been very hard and we are only at 8300 m.

Climbers minds wonder in different places, mine also, it is a clear night and no wind, I felt good and ready but I have no idea what others feel, those without Oxygen must sure feel cold and had to start moving or their body temperature will plummet fast. Dave Watson, one of my team members decided he needed to take a crap, is nature's call, I started laughing when I was told, Dawa Nuru Sherpa and I sat down and waited, and waited, Lakpa went down to see if Chuck Boyd was ready, we waited. When we saw light motions, we stood up and started to move, Dawa and I, slowly, we had climbers 200-250 yards in front of us but made good progress and they came closer and closer, passed many and still have many ahead but kept on going. I reached the NE Ridge first and waited for Dawa Nuru to catch up (he was heavy with Oxygen). We made a good time and it was still early, I decided to wait for Dawa just below the ridge, knowing that at the top will be much windier (experience pays, sometime). He came up and we continued.

Shortly after we caught up with some climbers, I recognized the rare "Malachowski" down suit worn by the Bulgarian climbers and I know this because I also bought one but decided to give it to Guillermo Carro for his attempt, the Bulgarian climber was relatively tall and he was making repeated stops. He realized he was in our way and stepped aside for us to pass him, he rested at the bottom of an incline (little hill) and I joined him for a rest since the place was comfortable enough to safely rest. He asked me if that (little hill) was the first step. I was rather surprised to find out that the Bulgarian could not piece together the photo (I assumed he saw the photo in many books) and many descriptions of how, the first step look like and timing to surmount it. I told him, negative and also told him, he will definitely know when that will be in front of him. I passed him but went slowly in order to have Dawa nearby. The Bulgarian climber was resting every few steps (this is rather normal when climbing without Oxygen), nearby was also a Dutch climber who was climbing with a Sherpa, both without Oxygen. The Dutch man was also resting repeatedly, sometime kneeling but not his Sherpa. There was little to be said at that altitude, climbers try to save every bit of energy and even talking is energy consuming, besides, one have to stop to make a conversation.

I will fast forward the climb since there were no incidents or anything important related to the Bulgarian climber, other than climbing at times near him. His climbing style/pattern was just the same.

Dawa Nuru and I climbed the second step first on that day, Dawa waited several minutes atop second step to make sure our climbers were coming but I marched on, still dark with light on. I stopped just bellow third step for at least 15 minutes but Dawa was not coming, then the Bulgarian climber along with the Dutch and his Sherpa passed me and were marching toward the third step, Dawa arrived and we quickly passed them all.  I was in front when I saw the Bulgarian going to the right side of the third step, the Dutch man and Sherpa were resting, I started to yell at him, after several tries he turned his head and looked at me. Since the wind was blowing and he was already on the right side of the foot of the step, I realized he might not hear me, so I pointed to the right direction (the route I took five times in the last five years). After he pointed to the bottom of the step I managed to scream: Up, Up, Up and pointed again to the highs of the step.

We were at least 30 meters apart but by now the light made its way and we can see each other perfect. The Dutch was also surprised that the Bulgarian took a different route. It is also known that in the past that route was climbed and I know for fact that a book was also written about the climb. I thought the Bulgarian wanted to do a different route and I couldn't think of any other explanation at the time why he wouldn't climb the same route we all climbed. Once I started the climb on the step, I lost all visual contact with the Bulgarian, the Dutch and his Sherpa waited for us to reach the top (wisely so, since a climber above can send rocks, small and large down to the bellow climbers). Once I reached the yellow rocks atop the step, I had a vantage point looking toward the North Face and Great Couloir. I looked especially for the Bulgarian climber and I saw him sliding down three times, he was climbing on large slabs partially covered with fresh snow and the slides were justified not having good purchase with his crampons. He arrived at the bottom of a 3-4 meters wall and there was no exit for him, he looked left and right and from what I saw there was no way he could climbed that wall, to the left was more tall rocks and for him to move to right will have to traverse more into the Great Couloir, I think he ruled out both options including going down (in my opinion suicidal), then he realized he screwed up. I screamed at him several times and finally he saw me atop the step. At that point he realized he was on the wrong path, then he wiped clean a part of a slab with his left arm and started to pound his head (not hard) on the rock, then he continued pounding the rock with his right fist. This incident was wrongly reported by journalist Michael Kodas in the Hartford Courant, (that was Chuck Boyd who saw him pounding the rock). Kodas did so and created more confusion on who was where and I shouldn't be responsible for the inconvenience created.

From the vantage point I could see only one option for the Bulgarian climber, and that was a short traverse to the right, entering a little snow gully and making an upward climb on the right hand side of the rock wall. From his position, being to close to the wall, he could not possibly see the gully nor the exit totally obscured by the wall.

I screamed: Right, right, go right, then he gesture either: I don't understand or I can't hear you, I tried several times but he was gesturing just the same, then I faced him and rose my both arms, then I started to point to my right arm and then pointed to right side. After two tries he got the message and started to look to his right, he was using his ice ax as the only mean of belay, sometime he got solid rock and tried again and again, he moved gingerly (the right way in that place) to his right and found the gully I could see from well above his position. Then he disappeared behind the wall I just mentioned. Knowing he found the only way out for him, I continued up and as I went down and up again without any view of the North face, I have no idea what the Bulgarian climber was up to. Only when I reached mid way up the snow pyramid I could see the lucky climber appear at the top of the Great Couloir, he was on relatively safe "ground," hard snow with little incline. I made my way atop the snow pyramid and discovered the Korean climber clipped on the main line, motionless, lifeless.

I waited for Dawa, who was 10-15 minutes behind, sat down few meters from the frozen body, immediately I knew that was the climber Ang Mingma described meeting on their way down and asking for water and radio, none were available, the Korean said he was snow blind and can't go down.

Fast forward again, Dawa Nuru, Lakpa and I reached the summit at 6:55 AM, May 20th. After spending perhaps 30 minutes atop, taking pictures and enjoying ourselves, despite the wind, cold and blowing snow with absolutely no visibility. When we decided to go down, the Bulgarian climber arrived, laid on his back and after catching his breath he started a conversation with Dave Watson (one of our expedition members). Again just because the Bulgarian was laying on his back, it DOES NOT MEAN he was dead or near dead, it was just the position he chose to take at the summit. He asked if we were there before and Dave Watson told him that he was there for the first time but Lakpa and I were there before. I think he snapped some photos of us but I am not sure. Again AT THE SUMMIT OF MT. EVEREST WE WERE NOT WITH HRISTO BUT WITH ANOTHER BULGARIAN WHO SUMMITED EVEREST FIRST ON THAT DAY AND SECOND ON HIS EXPEDITION (I will no mention his name). This climber returned safely to ABC, I spoke with him and a member of his expedition, the only person speaking English in that morning. I asked the Bulgarian if he has any recollection of the encounter with me at the summit, his answer was negative. Dan Lochner and Guillermo Carro were present when I asked the Bulgarian, also the Bulgarian translator was there present, later on he went to the Bulgarian media and said: (about me) HE HAS BAD REPUTATION AND HE SHOULD NOT BE TRUSTED: While I don't know who feed this man such information, apparently he wasn't aware that I just participated and brought down a climber from 8300 m, that in 2002, I helped a German climber come down from the death zone and he lived because of my efforts, he wasn't aware that I also participated in the 1999 rescue operation of an Ukrainian climber and in the same year I was the only non Sherpa who brought down to BC an almost dead Japanese climber, who survived, went to Japan and at the end of the expedition he came back to Nepal to thank me and the others for saving his life.

This man rushed to criticize me without any justification or scrutinizing from the Bulgarian media. Was I or anybody responsible for the Bulgarian climber who died on May 20th? Perhaps the whole structure and organization of the expedition should be scrutinized by the media, why Bulgarian climbers went without Oxygen? Did they make that decision at home in Bulgaria (did they purchased Oxygen?) or the decision was made on the upper side of Everest by the individual climbers? This is not my business, I made that decision before, it was mine and I was responsible for everything that followed, for bad or for good. While I have total admiration for those who strive for cleaner ascent and new routes, I cannot fathom the pain it create if things go wrong, simply: I JUST DON'T HAVE THAT EXPERIENCE, and it did for the Bulgarian expedition. They lost a member of the team and it cannot qualify as a success, if all cares for Hristo. I remember in 1999 the Ukrainian national team lost a member and almost lost the second, yet they went home and declared: VICTORY. In my opinion a sour one. It sure the same philosophy Soviet Union doctrine incorporated on the Eastern block: ONE CAN BE SCARIFIED FOR THE GOOD OF THE MANY, I hope the Bulgarians departed long ago from that sick doctrine and see the pain Hristo's family goes through.

I met Hristo while descending from the summit between the second and third step, he was going up, slow, very slow (normal at that altitude and without Oxygen), he had his name written with black marker on the left upper arm on his down jacket, so was absolutely no mistake on my part, I even called his name: "Hristo, better go down with us", but he didn't answer, he was resting (standing) and he shook his head negative. I looked him in the eye and he look so tired. He marched on, upward. That was the last time I saw him. Guillermo Carro was at the summit with him and Hristo took his photographs at the summit. Carro started down and he said he left Hristo at the summit. Carro also said he saw him when he [Carrro] was way bellow the second step, Hristo was at the higher part of the snow pyramid and also said he must have reached second step in darkness. Since they were the last climbers on the mountain in that day, Carro was the last man who saw him alive. Hristo's body was found on a sitting position atop second step.

It will be shameful to make and pass judgment on Hristo, from here or anywhere else, he did what he could under those circumstances, and I will assure you he did all he could to preserve his own life, he clearly gambled all he had and he lost.

It will never known to anybody what he went through, he might have a simple diarrhea which drained his body of precious fluids, he might had a stomach pain, a strained ankle or muscle a body to cold to keep on moving, he might have a stroke, a heart attack or perhaps he just run out of energy. Unless the body is brought down and autopsy is performed all the speculation will linger on, just like Prodanov's. I am not suggesting this should take place, in fact I wish all his family wishes.

Instead of pointing fingers and falling pray to easy answers, the people and media in Bulgaria or any other people who care should look deep into the facts not gossip.

In the death zone you are responsible, morally and otherwise only for your own sake. While I understand people who never climb at high altitude could not accept this "rules," thinking is just not human to leave someone at high altitude.

In the widely written book "Into thin air" Rob Hall lost his life by staying with his client, he died heroically and his name will always live but he is dead and his family is not happy at all. How can you help if no one asked you, should I have locked my binner to Hristo's, who am I to decide who climbs and who not? These things are never heard of.

People who criticized me have no idea what kind of effort it take to bring a person alive from that altitude, many, many willing to die for someone who might not survive anyway. And why should I lose my life for someone's style of climbing. The instinct of self preservation is a product of human evolution and on some people is the hardest thing to defeat in life. Unless your life was put on line, don't make judgments of others, beside at that altitude you think with what's left of your brain functioning.

Don't fell pray to the ever hungry media thirst for dramatic news reports, such was the Hristo's story, instead honor his life by not judging him, he knew better, instead do something, help his family go through this tragic experience, send them a check, perhaps they need it, they might want to bring him down and give him the decency of an Orthodox burial. Let the story be written by competent people and not by seasoned newspaper writers. As they put it: NO BLOOD, NO STORY.
It just sickened me
May God rest Hristo's soul
Regards George Dijmarescu
For further details, (please no Bulgarian media) you may write me at

Dispatches

Lakpa Sherpa is the only woman to have summited Everest four times. George Dijmarescu has 6 summits in the last 6 years. These are remarkable mountaineering feats for any individual, but above and beyond this, the couple will attempt to reach the summits of both Everest and K2 in the same season to complete the Top of the World Double Header -- together. George and Lakpa are sponsored for 2004 in part by Sabia & Hartley, LLC of Hartford CT.

To offer support or assistance for Gheorghe and Lakpa’s historic climb, please contact us at

 
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