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Wild Side of Medicine

THE SUMMIT IS OPTIONAL

LESSONS FROM TURNING AROUND ON NANGA PARBAT BY IAN OVERTON, WEMT ‘11

Boldness and wisdom don’t always run together, but self awareness guided wise actions on this bold expedition. Ian Overton.

“So... we’re going down to Islamabad to eat chapatis?” David’s question was tinged with a bit of humor trying to lighten my mood. I shed my goggles, wiped away sweat and a few tears, and looked out across the glacier, scanning up to Mazeno Peak. I could feel my heart smashing against my breastbone. With a frustrated smile and laugh, I dropped my goggles and simply said, “I guess.” I signaled him to cut the camera before I completely lost composure. We were sitting with our Camp 2 cache at 17,700 feet, the base of a steep icefall in our attempt to be the first team to summit Nanga Parbat (26,660 feet) in the winter. So far we had survived severe weather, un-roped crevasse falls, an avalanche in the dark of night, and a bivouac in which the temperature dropped to somewhere around -35 de-

grees Fahrenheit. Now, with another storm en route and my health declining, we were talking about going home. After heading down to Chilas and sending off our other team member, Zoli, who was suffering from Khumbu cough and frostbite, we returned to Base Camp rapidly. Not wanting to lose precious time and risk getting hit in another storm we made the mistake of not giving ourselves time to acclimate. For this breech of expedition behavior, I was paying the price. I came down with High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE), a potentially fatal form of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). While we had started off strong earlier in the day, my body started to fade. Nausea, headache, ataxia, irritability and hallucinations began to creep in. I heard birds that were definitely not there and thought my partner was speaking to

Ian Overton is the Expedition Medic for EDGE8000, a Hungarian high-altitude climbing movement. In January and February of 2013, the EDGE8000 team, consisting of David Klein, Zoltan Acs and Overton, attempted to perform the first winter summit of Nanga Parbat. As a graduate of WMI’s Wilderness EMT course, Ian learned valuable risk assessment and leadership development alongside life-saving medical care for remote locations. He would like to thank his teammates, friends and family, as well as EDGE8000’s sponsors at Johnnie Walker, C.A.M.P-USA, Mountain Hardwear, Princeton Tec, Tubbs Snowshoes, Bodri Wines, and everybody who supported the Indiegogo campaign.

me in his native Hungarian. I couldn’t make my hands properly load my rappel device. When we reached 18,372 feet, David watched as I took three steps and collapsed to my knees. When we called the turn around and, ultimately, the end of the expedition I was heart broken. I felt like I had let David and Zoli down, that I was disappointing my friends and family back home and in Budapest, not to mention our sponsors. And while my heart WE MUST REMEMBER wanted so badly AS ALPINISTS THAT NO to see what was ADVENTURE, NO SUMMIT, beyond the next IS WORTH THROWING ridge (“It’s just OURSELVES OFF THE like this,” David MORTAL COIL. assured me, “more snow and rocks.”) I was self aware enough to know it was time to go. We packed our gear and started the long, cold walk back to Base Camp. The American alpinist Ed Veisturs is quoted as saying, “It’s a round trip. Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory.” We must remember as alpinists (and seafarers, arctic explorers, bigwall climbers etc) that no adventure, no summit, is worth throwing ourselves off the mortal coil. It would be a far greater disappointment to those we love if we did not return to tell the harrowing tales. The mountain will always be there, waiting for some brave soul to reach its summit, snow-capped peak, freezing temperatures, howling winds et al.

WILDERNESS MEDICINE QUIZ HIGH ALTITUDE CEREBRAL EDEMA (HACE) a. Can present with ataxia. b. Develops from HAPE. c. Presents with shortness of breath. d. Is treated with Nifedipine or Albuterol. Answer on page 26. Summer 2013

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The Leader - Summer 2013  
The Leader - Summer 2013  

Expedition Denali is inspiring youth of color to find their passion in the outdoors. Read about the climbers and their motivations. -- The f...