Alpinist Juanjo Garra loses life on descent of Nepal’s Dhaulagiri

Spaniard spent three days and nights at over 8,000m with a broken ankle

Spanish mountaineer Juanjo Garra.
Spanish mountaineer Juanjo Garra. EL PAÍS

"I'm as well as can be expected given the circumstances," reported Catalan mountaineer Juanjo Garra on May 23. After three days at an altitude of 8,000 meters with a broken ankle, just below the summit of Dhaulagiri, which he had just reached, only a miracle or an amazing act of sacrifice would be able to save him. In the end, both arrived. Garra had survived three days and nights without food or adequate cold-weather clothing after his successful summit attempt and he held on just long enough to see a sherpa rescue team arrive.

Kheshap Sherpa, who had been on the descent with Garra, spent the entire time by his side as they desperately tried to get lower, out of the so-called "death zone" above 8,000m. But unable to walk properly, Garra and Kheshap only managed to descend to 7,900m.

News of the Spaniard's plight reached compatriots Jorge Egocheaga, Alex Txikón, and Damián Benegasy Ferrán at Everest base camp and a helicopter rescue was planned under the guidance of Simone Moro, a pilot who had just broken the record for the highest rescue ever pulled off at 7,800m on Everest. Maurizio Folini, one of Moro's pilots, managed to land a team to rescue Garra but bad weather prevented the helicopter from reaching Camp 3.

Meanwhile, German alpinist Dominick Moller arrived with three sherpas, carrying oxygen, two of whom managed to reach Garra and Kheshap, who made his way back down to Camp 3. Although the helicopter couldn't reach that altitude, it did fortuitously rescue an Indian climber who had been missing for two days at 7,400m as well as another Indian team. On one of those flights, Folini managed to deposit Egocheaga and Mingma Sherpa, who learned of Garra's death as they were climbing to him.

"Juanjo spent three days with no food or water and little oxygen at minus 23 degrees and could not carry on," said a spokesman for the family, which has decided not to attempt to recover the body and risk more lives. "Juanjo will remain where he would want to be, at the roof of the world."

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