|Makalu Gau, who jokingly refers to himself as having "blood type M (for mountain)," has had a lifelong passion for mountaineering, and despite the tragic price he had to pay for summiting Everest, he continues to face the future with positivity. (photo by Jimmy Lin)
||Climbing Everest requires climbers to start from base camp at 5340 meters above sea level, passing through four other camps before making their final assault. This photo shows the 1996 Taiwanese expedition team as they traveled between base camp and Camp II to help adjust to the high altitudes. (photo by Makalu Gau)
"I've knocked off the most difficult peaks all in order to push my own limitations and overcome my own narrow perspective and cowardice," says Makalu Gau, who has spent his life climbing mountains.
On May 10, 1996, after a decade's preparation, Gau finally realized his dream of reaching the top of Mt. Everest. However, a few hours into what should have been the proudest time of his life, he was caught in a sudden snowstorm and left trapped overnight at an altitude of 8300 meters and a temperature of -60oC. Even the Sherpas, natives of the Himalayas, had given up on him, and yet he miraculously survived. Suffering severe frostbite, after his rescue Gau had to have his fingers, toes, nose, and part of his feet amputated.
After undergoing surgery, including reconstructive surgery, 15 times, Gau was discharged from the hospital to face his new reality. He began his new life having to relearn to wash his face and brush his teeth, and after he had learned to walk again, he eventually returned to the world of climbing, visiting places like Tibet and Xinjiang to continue to record climbs of China's famous 100 peaks. Since his recovery in 1998, Gau's madness for mountaineering has seen him tackle 25 more of those hundred, and he is predicting to have the remaining 55 done by 2010.
It was the worst disaster in Everest's history.
Thirty-three mountaineers, excitedly taking on the world's tallest mountain, were caught in a sudden snowstorm during their descent. Eight died, including three from New Zealand and the United States who were experienced climbers of Everest.
The Himalayas, with ten peaks over 8000 meters, are encased in snow and ice year-round, and are devoid of life. They are considered holy by the people of Tibet, with Everest the most so. To make the ascent, you start at 2700 m above sea level, then trek for a week to reach base camp at 5340 m. After this, you climb through another four camps before reaching the main peak, which sits at 8848 m. The whole journey covers some of the most treacherous terrain imaginable. Along the frozen river between base camp and Camp I, for example, there are over 20 crevasses and icefalls; between Camp III and Camp IV, the entire way is lined with sheer ice and rock cliffs. Camp III itself is built on an icy slope with not an inch of level ground.