Rescue from Nepalese Himalayas by Brian Jackson

This will now be my fifth year as a member of the Austrian Alpine Club.  During this time, I have attempted to climb 5 first ascents in the Nepalese Himalayas and have been successful on 4 of these.  Each time on these expeditions, I have bought the AAC single trip premium rescue insurance, available only to AAC members, which covers me for mountaineering expeditions that are not on the standard trekking routes.  Previously unclimbed peaks fall within this remit.  On each of these expeditions, I have encouraged all the other expedition members to join the AAC and book the same insurance which they have all done.  The insurance cost differs if the peak is below or above 6,000m and is great value for the outlay and an essential part of any expedition.

Until November 2016, no members of our expeditions have ever had the need to call upon the AAC to use this insurance. However, on our attempt in November 2016 to make a first ascent on the unclimbed peak, Karbu Ri (6,010m), we had 3 people who got altitude illnesses at different times during the attempt to reach the summit.  Unfortunately, out of the 13 in our team, two people got HAPE and one got HACE.  The difficulty was that the walk in to both Base Camp and Advanced Base Camp was on a very long glacial moraine with a gradually increasing gradient which made it extremely dangerous to attempt to walk out in order to lose height quickly.  It would take hours just to lose a few hundred meters so the decision was taken to evacuate each person by helicopter straight back to Kathmandu.  We used our satellite telephone to contact our ground handlers in Kathmandu, HimEx Nepal, who sorted out the helicopter rescues. As soon as each person was in Kathmandu, they were told to make contact with the AAC to talk through both the necessary rescue and hospital costs.  The Tyrol Air staff on the end of the emergency number could not have been more helpful or understanding to each person and reassured them that the rescue would be covered.  They only needed to get a copy of the correct paperwork for both the helicopter flight and hospital costs and they would be reimbursed.  One of the climbers actually had the money in his bank account before he even got home on the next available flight to the UK. When it was required in an emergency, Tyrol Air were there to help and I cannot recommend them enough to all as their first port of call for all expedition insurance needs.

[Updated 19 March 2019]

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