Chris Dare, of Victoria, reached the summit of Mount Everest on May 23. The climber has now ascended all seven summits. (Facebook/Chris Dare)

Injuries, frostbite and death: B.C. man recounts Everest ascent

Local climber completes seven summit mission to inspire others, raise money for B.C. Children’s Hospital

In the death zone, every step feels like lifting lead. Your heart rate is slower, your brain is sluggish. You are essentially slowly dying due to a lack of oxygen. The wind is picking up, the air whipping your face is -40 C or colder, and even though some climbers never return, you keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Victoria man Chris Dare stood on top of Mount Everest Thursday morning, completing his mission of climbing the seven summits, a task he started in 2009 after climbing Kilimanjaro while on break from active military duty in Afghanistan.

As he stood on top of the tallest peak in the world with his personal Sherpa guide, Nuru, the wind too strong to place the flags he had brought for photos, Dare teared up beneath his goggles.

“I didn’t tell anybody at the time, but I cried under my mask,” he told Black Press Media in a phone call from Everest base camp. “I had been working towards the seven summits for the last nine years and it finally dawned on me that I had made it. All the hard work had paid off … all the pain and suffering.”

And the pain and suffering were severe.

Many climbers in his five-person crew were injured, and one, who Dare identifies as Kevin in a Facebook post, died after returning to Camp 3, the final camp before the summit.

“I’m happy about the accomplishment but obviously it comes with a lot of tragedy and a lot of heartache,” Dare said. “A lot of teams had injuries, frostbite, death … We lost one, but we could have easily lost more.”

A snapshot on the way to the top. One man from Chris Dare’s five-person crew will not be returning home, but Dare said there could have been more deaths – including his own – if not for the heroics of other climbers. (Facebook/Chris Dare)

READ ALSO: Canadian climbers say crowding on Mount Everest is just one factor in death count

READ ALSO: Bodies of 3 mountain climbers recovered after last week’s Banff avalanche

And Dare’s own summit placed his own life perilously close to death.

He described the ascent from Camp 3 to the summit as “the most dangerous and terrifying movement” he had ever experienced and said on the day he went up, two other climbers died attempting to cross a terrifying 20-centimetre wide ledge on the route to the top.

One of the biggest battles in summiting Everest is the almost total lack of oxygen – the ‘death zone’ is generally tagged at 8,000 metres (26,000 feet) and essentially means the amount of oxygen is insufficient to sustain human life for an extended period of time.

In total, it would take 11.5 hours for Dare and Nuru to summit – a journey that typically takes six to nine hours – the extra hours depleting their oxygen supply.

And after months of training and preparing, Dare could only stand on the summit for 10 minutes.

“I forfeited a good summit photo and said ‘lets get out of here,’” he said. “As I was going down, I was getting more and more exhausted and going slower and slower.

It’s so bad that just putting one foot in front of the other and trying to concentrate on not falling is so mentally draining.”

The plan was to make it down as far as possible, but Dare was too exhausted to get past Camp 3 – which, at 8,300 metres, is still in the death zone – where supplemental oxygen is a necessity. But Dare and his Sherpa had given away their two extra oxygen cylinders. The pair, along with a third climber, spent the night sharing one oxygen tank, slowly freezing with frostbite taking over.

“At 8,300 metres, without bottled oxygen, it’s like breathing effectively seven per cent oxygen at sea level,” Dare said in a Facebook post after the summit. “Without oxygen not only are you gasping for breath constantly from the hypoxia, you can’t sleep and you start to develop frostbite extremely quickly.”

But the three made it through the night, mostly thanks to Nuru giving up his oxygen supply for the other two climbers. Eventually, days later, most of the crew had made it back to base camp.

Along the north route, all climbing above camp 3 is in the ‘death zone,’ an altitude lacking sufficient oxygen to sustain human life for a long period of time. Despite using oxygen cylinders, climbers have a small window to make it to the top and down before they become sick from oxygen loss. (Facebook/Chris Dare)

What really sticks out to Dare is the heroics he witnessed during the climb.

One woman named Kam, ran out of oxygen in her descent, and her Sherpa had to make the difficult decision to leave her behind in order to save his own life.

Upon hearing of Kam’s location, another climber, Rolfe, mounted a one-man rescue from Camp 3. With depleting oxygen, in a race against time, he located Kam, whose hands and fingers were “completely frozen in curled positions,” attached her to himself, and rappelled three pitches, dragging her to Camp 3.

“Kam would have surely died if Rolfe didn’t find and rescue her. Rolfe is a true hero,” Dare said.

When asked why he chose to climb seven death-defying peaks, Dare said he simply had to once he had made it his personal goal.

“I wrote a Facebook post in 2010 and I said, ‘I’m going to climb the seven summits before the end of my life and nothing is going to stop me,” he recalled. “I’ve never thought that failure could be an option.”

And Dare’s Everest summit wasn’t just about making it to the top. He has been fundraising for the B.C. Children’s Hospital through Summits of Hope and has so far raised more than $10,000.

All donations go directly to the hospital and are accepted online at summitsofhope.com.

READ ALSO: Missing B.C. climber and partner reported dead

READ ALSO: Young B.C. climber joins elite global mountain trek group

Just Posted

Ladysmith hosts Indigenous Peoples Day celebrations at Transfer Beach

Community comes together to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day

Ladysmith man arrested for armed robbery and jewelry theft

Dustin Williams charged for robbery of beer and wine store and theft at jewelry store in Nanaimo

John Marston’s nutsamuut syaays welcome figure unveiled at LSS

The unveiling lasted for only a few hours, but it celebrated several years of work

Ladysmith couple prepares for 2019 Cycle of Life Tour

Brian and Karen Hartley will be riding to raise money for hospice care across Vancouver Island

Driver of stolen vehicle caught after fleeing accident scene in Chemainus

Section of Chemainus Road closed until suspect located and eventually taken into custody

Protesters rally in Victoria over newly approved Trans Mountain pipeline

The Still No Consent! No Trans Mountain! 20 kilometre march will end at Island View Beach

Wildfire burning in coastal forest

A fire beside the Sea to Sky Highway is burning up a steep slope

PHOTOS: Event marks one year since soccer team rescued from Thai cave

Nine players and coach took part in marathon and bike event to help improve conditions at cave

Rock climber dies after fall at Stawamus Chief in Squamish

The man had fallen about 30 metres while climbing in the Grand Wall area

Five B.C. students taken to hospital after playing with vaping device

School district said students were taken to hospital ‘out of an abundance of caution’

Being a pot dealer is not what it used to be

Sunday Big Read: the business of selling marijuana in B.C. is a slow bureaucratic slog

VIDEO: Two more pride flags have been stolen from Langley woman

Lisa Ebenal was “angry” and “fed up” after the latest theft. Then people started showing suppport

B.C. couple who has raised 58 children turns to community amid cancer diagnosis

Family who raised, fostered and adopted many kids hoping to gain some precious together time to fight cancer

Canucks acquire forward J.T. Miller from Lightning

J.T. Miller, 26, had 13 goals and 34 assists for the Lightning last season

Most Read