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Everest Journals 2005 #8

Expedition Ends With Broken Leg For Ben Webster

Shaunna To Continue

Everest Base-Camp:

By: Mike Swarbrick

What a difference a day makes, or sometimes a moment.

Ten minutes after doing a video piece for the New R.O. this morning on the instability of the Khumbu Ice Fall. Ben Webster had an accident. He and Shaunna were on their way back from Camp Two, near the top of the Ice Fall when the glacial ice collapsed beneath his feet. Ben fell to the side with one foot caught in the jagged ice breaking his left leg just above the boot line. Both bones snapped and the foot and lower leg turned 90 degrees to the side. Shaunna called me immediately to initiate a rescue. Word quickly spread and before long there was response from our own and neighboring Sherpa Teams. A chair, ropes and stretcher were carried up over six hundred meters, through the treacherous icefall to assist. Ben  straightened and splinted his own leg with two bars from a backpack and duct tape then dragged himself to a safer location. About an hour and a half later with the arrival of our extended team, Ben was placed on a stretcher and the process of moving him down the ice fall began. Food, drinks and pain medication quickly followed. It’s estimated that nearly fifty Sherpa’s suited up and took it upon themselves to assist in the evacuation. Ben thanked them many times as a group for their unbelievable work in time of need. Many of them have known Ben for years but some help also came from complete strangers.

     Upon hearing the news, our old friend Willi Benegas of Mountain Madness also dropped what he was doing and headed up the icefall to help. It’s great to know that remarkable people like these are around in times of need. These are people who will risk injury to themselves in a place of constant danger without hesitation, to help another. It’s sort of funny in a way though because it’s usually Ben who is in the lead of rescues here on Everest. Today the shoe was on the other foot and it was obvious that Ben is regarded highly in this neighborhood.

     Tonight Ben is resting at the Himalayan Rescue Associations Clinic here at base-camp awaiting evacuation tomorrow by helicopter to Kathmandu. Special thanks to Doctors, An Janssen and Fred Declerck who donated their time to maintain the clinic this year. Thanks are also due to Dr. Larry Legault an orthopaedic surgeon who is a climber here this year for his assistance, and to Dr. David Dreitlien who was visiting from another clinic.

     Shaunna will accompany Ben to Kathmandu tomorrow to over-see his initial treatments and then return to the mountain next week to continue the climb with the Sherpa Team. Ben insisted, from his bed, that she not give up her dream but that she continue to the top for both of them. It was a touching moment. That’s what I call “the right stuff”. Never give up your dreams. Never give up.


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