Global Rescue member David Nickel, a 48 year old IT Project Manager from the flatlands of West Texas, has trouble recalling the names of all the mountains he’s summited. A lifelong mountaineer and outdoorsman, he looks back on his adventures fondly, admiring the challenges he has been able to overcome.
Nickel has been a Global Rescue member for over 10 years, having been persuaded by the veteran climbers around him of its necessity. Although he has been a Global Rescue member since he began mountaineering at high altitudes, he’s fortunate to never have found himself in an emergency situation while traveling.
In October 2017, Nickel set off on the adventure of a lifetime. He hoped to summit Mera Peak, a mountain in the Everest region of Nepal, and add the accomplishment of reaching 20,000 feet to his resume for an impressive third time.
Joining Nickel was his friend, Sean Vestal, whom Nickel calls a “superstar.” Mera peak would be Vestal’s first attempt to reach such an altitude. Just weeks before setting off for Mera Peak, Vestal reached 11,000 feet, a personal best at the time.
Together, they put their minds and bodies at risk with hopes of making it to the top.
Looking across the Mera glacier @ 20K'
Everything went smoothly for Nickel until the last leg of the trek, as a blinding combination of wind and snow forced him to abandon his aspiration of reaching the peak.
“We smiled from ear to ear at the sight in front of us,” Nickel wrote, taking in the spectacular beauty of the world from 20,000 feet above sea level as they turned around to head back down. It was a sight of “mountaineering dreams,” he recalled.
“After gazing out on this amazing sight we began the long journey down.” There wasn’t much that could break his spirits after such an achievement.
“Then it happened,” Nickel wrote from the hospital in Kathmandu.
“I stepped on a loose rock and rolled my right ankle. I immediately fell to the ground, unsure of the exact injury, but I knew something was wrong.” Still almost 17,000 feet above sea level, Nickel knew his adventure was over.
His guides called Global Rescue shortly thereafter and a team was sent in a helicopter to retrieve the mountaineers and escort Nickel to the closest hospital that could deal with his injury.
“Fortunately, I had not had to work with Global Rescue in the past, but it was a completely pleasant experience.”
He was brought from the Everest region to a hospital in Kathmandu, Nepal, where X-rays showed no breakage.
“Global Rescue was really professional and got us out of there as we expected and there wasn’t any delay or anything,” Nickel said, thinking back on his first experience with their services.
“I appreciate everything Global rescue did for us.”
Months later, he has still not fully recovered from the injury he sustained on Mera Peak, but is finding ways to stay active. He’s already planning a trip to Mount Cook, New Zealand in 2019, knowing that no matter what happens, Global Rescue is just one phone call away.
David Nickel (l.) with Sean Vestal at the turnaround @ 20K’ with Makalu and Chamlang behind
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