Stranded Russian climber ‘hallucinated’ during Pakistan ordeal

PAKISTAN

London: A Russian climber who spent six days stranded on a mountain after his climbing partner fell to his death has described how he hallucinated that he had returned safely home, as avalanches continued around him, British media reported on wednesday.

Alexander Gukov was stuck at a height of nearly 6,300m (20,670ft) at Latok 1 in Pakistan’s northern Karakoram range. He was rescued on Tuesday by military helicopters, and said he had decided while he was on the mountain that he would ask his partner of 18 years to marry him.

“Every night what I was thinking [was] ‘when I come back, I will marry her’,” he told BBC from hospital in Rawalpindi.

Mr Gukov said that he and Sergey Glazunov, 26, had been forced back by bad weather as they approached the summit a week ago.

As they descended the 7,145m-high mountain, his friend disappeared.

“I tried to cry… and [there was] nothing,” Mr Gukov said.

He was left alone with barely any equipment – just two ropes. His tracking device was showing 2% battery, but he managed to send out an alert.

“I sent an SOS message that I needed the evacuation. And they promised me – OK,” he said. “But the weather… I’ve never seen weather like this. [For] seven days, avalanche, avalanche, avalanche.”

The climber built a cocoon in the snow to protect himself and was able to communicate using a satellite phone.

He said he could not see anything around him but could hear rescue helicopters above. Several rescue attempts had to be called off.

“At night I had plenty of hallucinations that I was already at home, safe,” Mr Gukov said.

Finally, the weather cleared and army helicopters were able to reach him. He was weak – the last three days had been spent without food – and had suffered frostbite in both feet.

Doctors are currently examining his condition to see if they can save his frost-bitten toes.

He said the loss of his friend was his “main regret”, but he did not know who to blame.

“What can I say, what can I tell you… I think there was a fault. I don’t know whose fault, probably his fault or the fault of god,” he said.