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Chinese climbers near the summit of Mount Everest abandon an ascent to save a dying woman

Chinese climbers near the summit of Mount Everest abandon an ascent to save a dying woman


June 8, 2023 | 1:56 p.m

Two Chinese climbers have been lauded for doing a dangerous and discouraging act on Mount Everest that saved another climber’s life.

Fan Jiangtao and Xie Ruxiang of southern China’s Hunan Province were just 1,000 feet from the summit on May 18 when they made a tough call to give up the climb to save another climber.

Van and Sherpa stumble upon an unconscious woman while agonizingly near the top of the world’s tallest mountain.

It is not uncommon or frowned upon among Everest climbers for climbers to prioritize reaching the summit rather than helping others.

In fact, rescuing or helping others over 5 miles is considered too dangerous for the rescuer and usually discouraged.

Fan Jiangtao’s photo.
Peking University
Xie Ruoxiang in the photo.
Peking University

However, Fan chose to rescue the Chinese woman who found herself in perilous conditions at an altitude of about 5.3 miles.

According to Fan, the leader of the Hunan mountaineering team, she ran out of oxygen, shivered uncontrollably, and lost a glove, leaving her hand blackened by frostbite.

According to the South China Morning Post, Fan said his goal has shifted from reaching the summit to saving lives.

“My guide asked me several times if I really wanted to give up climbing the summit. I told him, ‘Yes, my goal is to save a life,’” Fan said.

Xie Ruxiang and Fan Jiangtao made a selfless decision to stop their summit to save a woman.
Peking University

The fan himself refilled the woman’s oxygen and momentarily brought her back to consciousness with chest compressions and a drink of hot water, sugar and chocolate.

Van and his Sherpa spent two hours gruelingly taking the woman 656 feet up a steep descent where they bonded with fellow Climber Z and Sherpa.

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After four grueling hours, the couple and their Sherpas eventually transported the woman to Camp 4 below the “death zone,” and she has since reportedly recovered.

Later, it was revealed that Van helped pay the woman’s $10,000 rescue fee from Camp 4.

“At such an altitude, even carrying a bottle of water would feel exhausting,” Fan said. “Because my guide and I had reached the limit of our physical capacity, we couldn’t move her anymore. I had to let her stay there and go get help.”

Xie said when Fan, who was paralyzed by exhaustion, cried when he saw him.

“He told me that he wanted to save someone, but he didn’t have enough strength. I fully understood his desire to save a life. So I also decided to abandon my plan to reach the top and join him to save the woman.

The topography and conditions of Mount Everest make the trek very challenging for climbers.
Gilgi Sherpa via Reuters

“Regardless of whether she lives or dies, we must try our best to get her to our base camp.

“She’s just there. If we don’t save her, she will definitely die. If we help, she will probably live.”

Phan said that reaching the summit of Everest was “the dream of his life,” but he remains content with his decision.

“Although we have not reached the summit, saving human lives is much more important than reaching the summit,” he said.

“Climbing Everest is our dream, but it cannot be compared to life,” Xie added.

Fan Jiangtao and Xie Ruxiang are with the woman they rescued.

Peking University, where Fan and Xie both graduated and partnered with its Mountaineering Association, praised the men’s efforts.

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“Well done to two PKUers for their amazing acts of bravery and charity,” she said.

“Faced with the dilemma of pursuing their dreams and helping someone in distress, they made the commendable decision to stop and save the climber’s life.”

The 2023 Mount Everest climbing season saw a record number of climbers and deaths.

Twelve people have died on the mountain this year, and five are still missing, presumed dead.

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