ExWeb Interview with Carlos Pauner
10:00 am EST Jun 01, 2006
(Mounteverest.net) Carlos Pauner knows what it means to be left for dead. His epic descent from Kangchenjunga, which he pulled off alone and in a snowstorm for two days, stunned the climbing community. His own climbing mates, who were already packing to go, where awestruck when Carlos miraculously showed up, alive and kicking.
Forty-eight hours earlier, Carlos, together with his team mates had reached Kang's summit in a raging snowstorm. In a race to get down the mountain, Carlos lagged behind. Unable to see, he diverted from the route and fell 200 meters. His mates spent all night yelling the Spanish climber's name from high camp but eventually gave up and presumed he had fallen to his death.
When Carlos went missing for 2 days, no one was able to help him - his team had already gone down. However, he believes that he may just as well have been completely alone had the accident happened on Everest.
Now, nearly 3 years later and just back from a failed attempt on Dhaulagiri, Spaniard Carlos Pauner is entirely focused on his next expedition to Broad Peak and GII (Pakistan). However, he is also aware of the recent events taking place on Everest – a mountain he knows well, and doesn't particulary like.
ExplorersWeb: The case of Lincoln Hall, being left for dead and then found alive – can it be compared to your own experienced on Kangchenjunga?
Carlos: I don’t think so. On Kangchenjunga, after reaching the summit we all ran for our lives. It was a very difficult route on a very high mountain, everyone went down as fast as his strength permitted, trying to reach camp and save their lives in the middle of a storm. I had bad luck, got lost and fell. From the first moment, I knew I would have to get out by my own means or die there – there was nothing my mates could do for me.
ExplorersWeb: On Kangchenjunga or Everest – do you think climbers must help someone in trouble?
Carlos: Helping another climber is a personal decision, a matter of personal ethics. I would do it, but I don’t think there is a way, like a law, to oblige climbers to rescue others.
ExplorersWeb: Then it is true no one can expect to be rescued on an 8000er?
Carlos: Well, circumstances are not the same on every 8000er. Among them all Everest is different, because the kind of people you find there is different.
ExplorersWeb: Different in what sense?
Carlos: Most people attempting Everest are not experienced in high altitude, and they don’t go there to enjoy a climb, but to achieve a summit for which they’ve paid huge amounts of money. In the same way, they are moving in a hostile terrain they don’t know and don’t control. Once they reach higher camps, they are insecure, often terrified. They are incapable of making decisions, and thus they depend completely on their Sherpas and guides.
Under such circumstances, they focus on the summit and their own performance. They don’t even look around, least of all change their plans to help anyone. In fact, they often can’t help themselves if something goes wrong – and that’s why many tragedies happen.
Among experienced climbers, things change – they’ve been at altitude before, they know how it feels, and they know what to do.
ExplorersWeb: But then are you justifying that stranded climbers are left alone there?
Carlos: No, no. What I am saying is, I understand that an exhausted, inexperienced person may not personally help down someone else. But at least, he or she can check how the person feels, give the injured oxygen if they have plenty of it, warn the team of the stranded climbers, send Sherpas to the rescue… There are many things that can be done besides grabbing the injured climber and carrying him down on your soulders. A bottle of O2, a call to BC… Something as simple as that may save a life. The problem is, most of the time, people around a sick climbers don’t even do that.
ExplorersWeb: Why do you think they don’t even try to help?
Carlos: Frist of all, it’s the fear of being in the death zone and the inexperience. Then it's the sheer desire of reaching the summit. In that sense, “Everest tourists” are often less keen to renounce the summit than experienced climbers. After all, we are used to failing – but a person going to Everest for the first time, after paying US $50.000, may find it difficult to consider such a sacrifice. A first-timer can assume not reaching the summit due to bad conditions or his/her own health problems, but renouncing the big prize for helping someone they don’t know – that is not so common.
Besides, on Everest there is this scary feeling of being anonymous. You don’t get to know all the other climbers in BC personally, so then you don’t get involved. On the upper slopes, climbers pass by a number of corpses, not knowing if they have been there for years, or if they died days ago. Then nothing matters but their own footsteps up or down.
ExplorersWeb: Do you think climbers on Everest expect help?
Carlos: Yes, I think they do. And that is a fatal error. They think nothing can happen with all the ropes, the O2, and with all those people around. But you just can’t count on people when you're on Everest. Members in big teams have guides and Sherpas, but independent climbers can’t expect help - if they do get it, they are just lucky.
ExplorersWeb: Are you returning to Everest?
Carlos: Eventually I will. But I don’t like to repeat expeditions to the same peak within a short period of time. I attempted Everest in 2000 from the North side, and in 2005 from the South. I’ll let some time pass before going back. In addition, it is not exactly my favorite mountain. Everest BC gets you burnt out sooner than any other BC, and the climb with many people around is not comfortable, particularly going without O2.
ExplorersWeb: When you go, you’ll go without supplementary O2 again?
Carlos: Definitely. I’ve already climbed 8611m w/o gas (on K2) – there is no way I would use O2 for 200 meters more! The real challenge of Everest is its high altitude – there would be no point in eliminating that challenge.
Carlos Pauner was born in Jaca (northern Spain) in 1964. He has already summited K2, Kangchenjunga, Makalu, Cho Oyu, G1, and Nanga Parbat. This spring he attempted Dhaulagiri. Next goal is a Karakorum double-header: Broad Peak and GII.
Autor: Exploerersweb Inc.