A Close Call at Annapurna Base Camp

Vadim Druelle of France had a close call at Annapurna Base Camp even before he could attempt the mountain without supplementary oxygen.

Druelle, 23, reported today that even before reaching Base Camp about a week ago, he had food poisoning. He was very weak when he pulled into camp but felt better the following day. He figured that he was on the road to recovery. Then things became complicated.

“I started coughing up a salmon-colored foam and the pulse oximeter was at 35.”

He suddenly felt as if his body was giving up on him. He looked up “pulmonary edema” in a medical book and realized that the foam indicated that that’s what he had, and it was very advanced.

Within minutes, he fled Base Camp. “It was clearly the instinct to survive,” recalls Druelle.

Vadim Druelle at Annapunra base camp.

Vadim Druelle at Annapurna Base Camp. Photo: Vadim Druelle


“My brain had gone into a mode I had never experienced before,” said the young French climber.

He took Dexamethasone and was able to get to a lower altitude. Druelle says that that 20km was the hardest effort of his life. When he reached Pokhara, doctors there examined him. They determined that he was, in fact, in the last stage of pulmonary edema.

His medical team back in Chamonix warned him not to return to altitude. He needs to convalesce back in France, and scaling Annapurna no-O2 will have to wait for next year.

Druelle is no stranger to a hypoxic environment. He has already summited Kangchenjunga, Manaslu (foresummit), and attempted Dhaulagiri I and Lhotse’s South Face, all without supplementary oxygen.

Vadim Druelle at the hospital in Pokhara.

Vadim Druelle at the hospital in Pokhara. Photo: Vadim Druelle

Kris Annapurna

KrisAnnapurna is a writer with ExplorersWeb.

Kris has been writing about history and tales in alpinism, news, mountaineering, and news updates in the Himalaya, Karakoram, etc., for the past year with ExplorersWeb. Prior to that, Kris worked as a real estate agent, interpreter, and translator in criminal law. Now based in Madrid, Spain, she was born and raised in Hungary.