By Asem Mustafa Awan
What made you climb Mountains? You started at lowest point on earth and you ended up on top of the Everest?
Kathmandu valley, Nepal magical soil where dreams meets reality. Dust and traffic and Namaste. This life is filled with endless options and opportunities. Can or can’t, yes or no, I want or don’t. just mind tools for daily life.
2011 in Kathmandu, Thamel was the only place to hang out. All day dealing with taxi drivers, Nepali helicycle taxis, beggars, street vendors etc.
Can be hearing all day, hey my friend where are you going? om money many many om. hiking, trekking/ Everest base camp and Yeti. Everest beer, Nepali whiskey and Nepali rum.
Different minds and different level of courage. Rest is a way to the heaven and hell, beautiful and ugly. Best of it all Dhal bhat, power 24 hour, no toilet no shower.
Before going to Kathmandu valley, in 1991 I immigrated to New York city. While I was pumping at gas station in Long Island City, I started studying. While I was studying I became yellow cab driver. Then good study requires more money and time, driving limousine was best solution for few more years later. Diploma- marriage –action – drama – romance – comedy – business. And then art – philosophy – novels comes out of all these actions.
These moves and changes are more than enough to make simple person life easier and financially freer but I become homeless, it was my own decision. I was happy to see different sector of the life. I got lucky to use refrigerator cardboard box as a shelter. Special thanks to people who threw old bicycles on the garbage in Long Island City area.
I got myself a whole New York City, a Cardboard box, an old bicycle and 7 novels to edit. Finding the time and place was more difficult than writing. I was only focused on creating art and edit my novels for publication. I also kept an eye on garbage for finding another bicycle so that to clean it, give a little trendy touches and sell it in Lower Manhattan to all fashion lovers.
My daily routine started from 5am to 9am editing 1654 page book, 9 am to 5pm construction work and 5pm to 7pm cycling and from 8pm onwards working on the 15,000 pieces installation art project. I filled my life and my home with bicycle art and literature. It was time to share it with outside.
I offered my works to Art Galleries and to museums but nobody seems to be interested. One of my book titled ‘bad and good or good and bad’ in that book I was editing a section about the truth, this was my own philosophy.
I made the judgment for better observation and understanding, my project requires me to travel more and do social research.
I decided to cross the earth by single speed bicycle. The first thing that comes to my mind was North Pole and I started from New York City to Quebec in Canada.
I researched how I can reach the North Pole, I thought it over, it was possible but not doable in that time for me.
I took the bicycle a month later and started cycling from New York City to North Pole by single speed bicycle.
1st pace New York – Bangkok 2nd pace Bangkok to Lasha 3rd pace Nepal, home of Everest.
The Everest, (Sagarmatha) Highest point of earth. to get to the top, you have to stop at camp finance.
Camp finance is most important section on the way to the top of the world, where all rat minded humans watch and wait their turns to get pieces of the daily meal.
If you don’t like to deal with them, you have to have lots of money or work harder or borrow otherwise stay away from the mountains. No matter who or what you are, where and how you come, race, religion, ideology, female, male, gay, travesties, no arm, no hands. Camp finance welcomes everyone who can pay the bills.
Please do not pray as Camp Finance is not a holy place.
Lucla is the gate of rest, Namche very $$$, Gorak Ship is the good rest and the base camp fools the rest.
Mountains are world heritage, they should be free to climb.
What happened on May 19, 2012 on Everest? Did you make summit?
Yes I was on summit of Everest. May 19, 2012 around 3 pm. Hillary up Tenzing down.
That was my first experience of climbing and using crampons, ice axe, what is 8 for, how you walk with the boots, down suit, sleeping on the ice, walking on the aluminum ladders bits that shake like trampoline, you wouldn’t want to look down in the ice monsters mouth.
It was my first time going up to camp 1, we were 2 hours away, I couldn’t go more. Me and my shepherd had to go back to base camp. I went immediately to the doctor of the base camp. She said everything is normal but I felt something was wrong and I started blaming myself. I thought it was a mistake to come here, I cannot even go up to the camp 1, how will I go up to the camp2.
Either we like it or don’t, we might end up in a circumstances of continuing history. Who designs the future?
That was my only acclimatization.
May 6, 2012 same day 6 government officers came to the base camp and confiscated by single speed bicycle and took me back to Namche.
It was an unofficial hearing held by head of army and he was assisted by head of police. They order me either you leave the bike here with us or you can take the bike with you and leave the mountain.
Even I had the permit issued from minister of tourism. Why? Bicycle is a man power machine, against the industrialized machineries.
There was only two ways up or down. I came here to be up not down.
We waited till May 13th morning and there was no bicycle I and Sonam Lama Dai started at 9am from Kumjung reached the Everest base camp at 8pm same day.
Night of 14th group started going up from base camp at 3am in the morning, this time I left every one behind and this time it was much easier. Camp1 6am, camp2 10am. 2 days’ rest. Reached the camp 3 at the good time. Next day I was on last camp 7900 meters of Everest at 10 am.
I waited till 12pm I have no tent to cook and eat and it was very windy. 5pm Nadav Ben Yehuda came inside the tent. There was not enough room for him and his Sherpa as they have no tents.
We were in the same group and we shared the same company service but it was not easy to take rest with 4 people in small tent. We were supposed to go all together for the summit but unfortunately accident happened and my oxygen mask broke.
My Sherpa, on this, refused to climb with me. Nadav and his Sherpa changed the summit day. I took 3 oxygen bottles and made the summit next day May 19.
More than half the way down from summit to camp 4 at the place called balcony. They were many climbers, some trying to go up, some in sitting positions, some of them dead, some are about the die.
It was the death zone and complete silence, I heard ‘help me’, I need oxygen. I stopped to understand what is happening.
Helping but how, I have no idea what to do, and why the other mountaineers are not stopping and helping. They don’t even look at them.
It was a moment of realization, I took off my oxygen mask and put that on her face so that she can breathe.
I felt tired my mind was already in sleeping mode. I saw a place where I can attach myself to an old safety rope and rest for a while. I slept 5 hours. Nadav Ben Yehuda and his Sherpa Pemba were coming up, Pemba saw me in the balcony. Nadav already had frost bite even so he wanted to be at the summit. Pemba didn’t want to take risk to climb up and he decided to wake me up. Surprisingly neither my mind was weak nor my body. Me and Pemba started walking down, Nadav was waiting about 15 meters below us.
Nadav said, “brother, we find you.”
As soon as we passed Nadav, few meters down we found another mountaineer, he needed help.
I asked Pemba to help him. Pemba told me people are on the way to help him. We walked down together 400 meters to camp 4.
Do you think Israeli climber used this moment to create a politically engineered gimmick to place Turkey at the back foot?
Even this small contact was enough for very well-orchestrated political gimmick which brought hard times into me and my life.
I was stunned at this treachery but I had no proof at that time. Now I have gathered enough evidence to expose the tin heroes who made it big at the expense and lives of others.”
“I have been targeted since then in different expeditions, as I know what actually happened and Israeli climber Nadev Ben Yehuda is not what he portrays to be but on the contrary he is projected everywhere as a life savior.”
I will forgive for the sake of peace, but share with the world the proof how you made the rescue.
The Nepalese-Canadian climber was taking her last breaths and you gave her your oxygen mask? What compelled you to do that while others just went past her?
It’s a simple rule, save yourself from yourself, so that you can save the others. I could easily pass her like others but I didn’t.
You were airlifted from Dhaulagiri Base Camp, what happened?
Mountain sickness and I obeyed leader of the expedition. I started vomiting early in the morning. I was freezing inside my down suit under the sleeping bag.
It took 4 hours to get an oxygen bottle from team leader at 12 noon. Indian army doctor convince team leader to call the rescue helicopter which he called at 3.30 pm. Rescue helicopter made it 5.30pm right before the dark, if helicopter couldn’t make it to the Dhaulagiri Base camp on that time another dead would have been added in the list.
Still open case.
Please explain Pakistan and Nepal are promoting ‘tourism of illusion’?
Hollywood and Everest are the biggest stage of this planet. If you ask any of the city person in this world who has television they will know Hollywood and will name at-lease few Hollywood stars.
It doesn’t matter which country you go, ask people in movie industry most of them daydreaming to be a Hollywood star.
Who knows or remembers behind the stage workers.
Hollywood producing and promoting commercial characters of the future society. They tell us what to eat, how to drink, how to behave and live in a copycat life style, while people are watching their screens.
Everest is the highest stage on earth. Best of the best comes to this stage. Successful people, company owners, ceo’s, political people, movie stars, army officers, police officers, commercial climbers and few true alpinists.
Everest is not a challenge of the life, it has now become a place creating tin heroes for advertising.
One Sherpa in the front to pull and one Sherpa in the back to push. Now K2, Nanga Parbat and Broad Peak especially in this year 2017 were in high demand for commercial climbing.
Is commercialism and greed corrupting the sport and there are no climbing ethics?
Commerce is for buying and selling. Sport is for amusement at personal or at team level challenges. True Athlete behaves as an educator and entertains the world. Now a day’s commerce and sport entertains people together. Corruption is already in business and in sport.
Sponsors think athletes are assets of the company and this result in athletes becoming more aggressive and lethal. Therefore their can be no question on ethics.
Why are you called White Sherpa?
I really don’t know, maybe admiration of people.
Is Nanga Parbat exposed to you with meticulous precision?
Nanga Parbat is a fairy meadow. Details create the whole picture.
Himalayas and Karakorums are international crime scenes and not all that comes out is truth?
In our daily life we can end up in so many odd things, is it an individual’s mistake to walk on the street when the bombs explodes, is it a mistake to see on the news people killing each other, is it a mistake to complain or is it a mistake to tell the truth.
What are you plans now? Why are you doing this?
I’m a life. My plan is very simple. Don’t Give Up. I’m doing nothing, I am only telling what happened and it’s the truth.