Mountaineers and trekkers are in the Himalayan region for the spring 2023 climbing season, among them, a handful of climbers attempting to break a few records. Global Rescue operations team members deployed in Nepal expect to complete well-over 100 rescues in the country during this climbing season. Kristin Harila, the Norwegian XC skier-turned-mountaineer extraordinaire and Global Rescue Mountain Advisory Council member became the fastest woman to climb all 14 mountains above 8,000 meters in May after summiting Cho Oyu. Harila topped the previous record set by Spanish climber Edurne Pasaban in 2010. 

Harila is not done. She and another woman are trying to break the speed record by anyone – male or female – to summit all 14 of the world’s 8,000+ meter (26,242+ feet) mountains. There’s also a Wyoming, U.S., sports medicine doctor who will attempt to reach the peak of Mount Everest 15 days faster than anyone before. And then there’s a Nepalese Sherpa guide who will try to reach the apex of the planet’s tallest peak for the 27th time – more than anyone else has. 

But to say there will be challenges is an understatement. Acute mountain sickness, challenging weather, bad falls, twisted ankles, frostbite, gastrointestinal trouble, snow blindness, avalanches and many other conditions will test climbers and trekkers at every step. Global Rescue deployed a team of specialists to Nepal to perform rescue operations during the Mount Everest spring 2023 climbing season where a record number of rescues are expected. 

[Related Reading: Mountaineers Set Their Sights On Record-Breaking Climbs] 

“We anticipate several rescue operations performed each day this spring Everest climbing season, which will keep the deployment team busy from before dawn until nearly midnight,” said Dan Stretch, a Global Rescue operations manager who has performed more than 500 evacuations and crisis response operations in the Himalayas. “During the busiest time the medical and rescue operations team performs up to 25 rescues a day.” In a typical 30-day period, Global Rescue executes hundreds of operations in dozens of countries and territories. But for this special edition of Global Rescue’s Mission Briefs, we are exclusively highlighting a few of the many Himalaya rescue operations completed in April.  


two people hanging froma helicopter's longline


Avalanche Activity Complicates Rescue

A couple from Pakistan needed Global Rescue when the member became ill, suffering from dehydration and exhaustion, and was unable to take food or water while at Camp Four on Annapurna. Unfortunately, earlier avalanche activity between Camp Three and Four and the high elevation increased rescue risks. An expedition leader relayed that the avalanches made the descent path unsafe. Rescue operations after a major snow slide are inherently more dangerous since the chance of further avalanches is elevated. Global Rescue operations experts determined that a helicopter long-line rescue was the best option, due to the instability of the avalanche conditions on the ground. The team initiated a long-line airborne field rescue, and the member was successfully evacuated to a hospital and admitted where she was diagnosed with Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) and treated with IV fluids and pain medication. After a couple of days, the member’s symptoms improved, and she was released. 

[Related reading: Long Line Helicopter Rescue On Ama Dablam] 

Elevated Heart Rate Trekking to Chukhung

A Romanian member contacted Global Rescue reporting breathing difficulties while trekking to Chukhung, Nepal, from Everest Base Camp. Her symptoms included an elevated heart rate at 157 beats per minute, a low 78% oxygen saturation level, and headache, fever, dizziness, weakness, cough and chest pain. Global Rescue set in motion an airborne helicopter evacuation to a hospital in Lukla. The member was examined, diagnosed and treated for AMS. Global Rescue medical operations experts observed her case and continued to follow up with the member after her hospital discharge. She reported feeling better with most of her symptoms resolved.  

COVID on the Mountain

Getting sick, especially with COVID-19, is never welcome. But when it happens at high elevations (16,929 f/5,160 m) symptoms are more intense and dangerous. That’s what happened to a 63-year-old member from the U.S. who contacted Global Rescue while she was at the Snowland Inn in Gorakshep. She reported testing positive for COVID and registering a low 80% oxygen saturation level. She added that her symptoms included a persistent cough, headache, dizziness, severe weakness and an inability to walk. Global Rescue launched a helicopter field rescue from Gorakshep to a hospital in Kathmandu. The member was safely evacuated to the hospital where her COVID infection was confirmed, and her other symptoms soon improved at the lower altitude. She was discharged and self-isolated at a hotel. Several days later she tested negative for COVID.  

Chopper Field Rescue

Global Rescue medical operations deployed a helicopter to rescue a U.K member from Mount Everest Base Camp in Khumjung, Nepal. The member was suffering from symptoms of high-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) including shortness of breath, a low 44% oxygen saturation level and indications of fluid in the lungs. Dangerously bad weather conditions kept air transport grounded, forcing a delay in the rescue mission until the following day. After a successful evacuation to a hospital, treating physicians diagnosed the member with HAPE, and admitted him for observation and treatment. A Global Rescue medical operations team member conducted a hospital visit with the patient to discuss his improving condition and progressing recovery. 


Two trekkers in Nepal roped together


Trekker Needs Rescue From Lobuche 

Following several days of recurring vomiting, neck pain, difficulty breathing, dizziness, severe fatigue, the inability to eat or drink, and a low oxygen saturation level of 67%, a member from Thailand who was trekking in Lobuche contacted Global Rescue for help. Due to the severity of his condition and the need for medical evaluation and treatment, Global Rescue deployed an airborne rescue helicopter to evacuate the member from Lobuche to a hospital in Lukla. The member was safely evacuated and diagnosed with mild AMS and a respiratory tract infection. He was treated with nebulization and prescribed medication, and subsequently discharged.  

Medevac For a Higher Level of Care

A U.K. member contacted Global Rescue from a medical center in Khumjung, Nepal suffering symptoms of HAPE and high-altitude cerebral edema (HACE). Due to his need for a higher level of care, Global Rescue medical operations initiated a medical evacuation airborne transport from Khumjung to a hospital in Kathmandu where the member was evaluated and diagnosed with AMS and HAPE. He was admitted for further observation and treatment. The member was released a few days later and flew home with medications and instructions to follow up with his primary care physician upon returning home.