Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Hannelore Schmatz, first German woman to die - Mt Everest expdition

Mountaineer Hannelore Schmatz .keywordsuggests.com

 Scaling Mt. Everest, the tallest mountain in the world, is a tough job and it requires tough mind and good preparation well before the expedition. It is  so difficult  that  many  trained climbers  were killed due to ice falls, horrible falls, deep crevasses, shifting ice, etc.  Its altitude, sudden weather changes at higher reaches and  the technical aspect of climbing  are not to be underestimated.

A perusal of the Everest records would tell you that the death zone above camp 4 has taken the lives of many strong and skilled climbers  despite their expertise and technical skill.  Even if the ascent goes well, you can not take it for granted, for Everest never fails to  live up to its fearful reputation should the conditions turn against you on the higher slopes either before the assault or after summitting. That discretion is better part of valor is true in the case of Everest expedition leaders. A wrong decision means climbers  will never see the plains. 

Though, Everest expedition  right from the base camp to the top and then from the peak back to the same spot is fraught with dangers, in the past decade or two more and more daring women have  taken part in the expedition  and proved their courage, confidence  and commitments. In the past, among them was one courageous woman by the name of  Hannelore Schmatz from  Germany. She successfully scaled the peak, but was not lucky to be  alive to enjoy her victory. She became the victim of unpredictable weather while descending.

 Hannelore Schmatz (born on 16 February 1940) was a well-trained German mountaineer  and her husband  Gerhard Schmatz.(then 50 years old) was also a competent mountaineer Later he became the oldest man to be atop Everest. Hannelore Schmatz was on an expedition via the South East Ridge route  to scale Mt. Everest along with her husband. When they were on the tough expedition to the tallest peak in the world, they never realized the impending tragedy awaiting them. They undertook severe training before embarking on this expedition. As ill-luck would have it, when she was returning after having successfully summitted Everest, an unexpected thing had happened and nobody in the team would have dreamed of. She  collapsed and died on 2 October 1979, thus becoming the first German citizen to die on the risky  upper slopes

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of Everest.  She happened to be a member of an expedition that was
led by her husband  Gerhard Schmatz. Paradoxically,  set the world record then by becoming the oldest person to have summitted Mount Everest but was not in a mood to celebrate it because of his wife's unexpected death while coming down the higher slopes.

Gerhard Schmatz, Hannelore's husband. The Post-Mortem Post
South Ridge route. SlideShare

Among the Expedition groups to Mt. Everest, it has been a  practise  to split into smaller groups, allowing a few members to summit at a time as the rest of the team will stay at the at base camp.  It so happened Hannelore, was teamed  with  experienced mountaineers Swiss-American Ray Genet and a Sherpa, Sungdare to summit the mountain.

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Upon completing a successful summit, Mrs. Schmatz and Genet felt  tired and fatigued and made up their mind to take rest to avoid further exhaustion. Having no other choice, they  spent the evening in a  bivouac (a temporary camp without tents or cover, used especially by soldiers or mountaineers0. This would help avoid  returning to a base camp at 27,200 feet in the so called Death Zone. The  pathetic part is the Sherpa who  was an expert guide and knew the mountains well, urged them to move down to the base camp as it was risky to stay on high slopes, considering the weather condition. Normally at such dizzy  heights it is not uncommon to see snowstorms that would generate all of a sudden. Yet another risky factor was snow avalanche. During the night,unexpectedly  there was a severe snow storm  blowing hard across the higher slopes. In such a scenario, the temperature would plummet drastically below zero and survival is a tough job, considering the height.  Following morning, Ray Genet  was found dead due to hypothermia. His body was eventually buried by the snow. Soon, Hannelore died 330 feet away from the base camp because of extreme cold and exhaustion. Reportedly, her last words were “water, water”. Sungdare, who somehow survived the snowstorm  stayed with Hannelore, even after her death, and as a result, he not only lost one finger and but also most of his toes to frostbite. In 1984, a Sherpa and a Nepalese police inspector made a vein attempt to recover the body of Hannelore Schmatz.  The terrain was so tough and difficult to access, both fell to their death during the recovery effort. For years, Hannelore body has remained in plain view of the mountain’s Southern Route; her body was frozen in a sitting position, leaning against  her backpack and known to most as only, “The German Woman”. Because of subzero  weather conditions, her  body is well preserved with her eyes open and the hair blowing in the heavy winds. There is a likelihood that her body was pushed down slope by the strong winds. Her remains  were pushed over the edge and down Kangshung Face.  Her eternal resting place on the mountain remains a jigsaw puzzle. Anyway, she finally received some form of a burial. As for Gerhard Schmatz, his wife's death on the lap of the Mt. Everest was an irreparable loss, and his  record of being the oldest  man then to summit Mt. Everest, was overshadowed by his personal tragedy.