Everest: A Chinese Woman’s Refusal to Pay a Promised Rescue Fee Causes a Huge Controversy in China

There has been a huge controversy in China after this past Everest season. It involved a Chinese woman — one of 100 Chinese citizens on the mountain this spring — who was rescued by two sherpas and their two clients from another team. The passionate debate evolved into a kind of cyberbullying against the woman.

Map of The Death Zone on Everest.

The Death Zone on Everest. Photo: Nepalhighlandtreks


According to different sources – Insider, Xataka, Theonlinecitizen, and South China Morning Post — this is what happened.

On May 18, 50-year-old woman Liu Qunying, a member of the Kaitu Alpine team, summited Everest. During the descent, she became separated from her guide Lakpa Pemba, due to a “communication problem.” By about 8,500m, she was alone, out of oxygen, and started to suffer frostbite on her hands. Finally, she collapsed.

Climbers high on Everest.

Climbers high on Everest. Photo: Weibo


A climber from the Hunan Mountaineering team, Fan Jiangtao, was moving toward the top of Everest with his sherpa, Lakpa Gelu, when they met Liu. Her face was already covered in ice, one hand was almost black from frostbite, and she was unconscious. Fan decided to abort his own summit push to rescue her. Fan and Lakpa Gelu took her down 200m, but after that, they needed more help.

Xie Ruxiang, another member of Fan’s team, reached the spot where Fan and Lakpa Gelu were with the Chinese woman, at about 8,250m. Xie was also on his way up to the summit with his own sherpa, Pem Chhiri.

Both Chinese clients decided to abort their summit push. They asked the sherpas (both from 8K Expeditions) to bring Miss Liu down to Camp 4. At first, Pem Chhiri — the strongest of the group — refused, since they were in a very dangerous spot and the rescue was risky. According to the sources, Xie then offered the sherpas $10,000 in Liu’s name to rescue her. Xie apparently told Pem Chhiri that Liu would pay the sherpas this money later.

Two Chinese climbers in a tent

Two Chinese climbers from another team abandoned their summit attempt to help Liu. Photo: Allthatsinteresting


Fan, Xie, Lakpa Gelu, and Pem Chhiri started to head down toward Camp 4. The two sherpas carried the woman and gave her oxygen, while Fan and Xie held her legs. It took them 11 hours to reach 7,950m Camp 4 at the South Col with the stricken Liu.

The Chinese woman survived thanks to the rescue, but she later refused to pay the $10,000. She offered them instead $4,000.

Camp 4 on Everest.

Camp 4 on Everest. Photo: Tirthakanji


Fan and Xie became angry with Liu. They told her that if that was her attitude, then they (Xie and Fan) would pay the money and they didn’t want anything from her. So Fan paid the rescue fee. Both Chinese climbers remained upset, as it seems that Liu didn’t even thank them for their efforts.

After the expedition, both men were discussing the case in an open group on social media. Someone later leaked the conversation. When it became public, the Chinese public became furious with Liu.

Another rescue: Gelje Sherpa carrying a client from another team down from the death zone.

Another rescue: Gelje Sherpa carries a client of another team down from Everest’s Balcony, at 8,450m. Photo: Gelje Sherpa


Later, the Kaitu Alpine outfitter admitted their responsibility for the poor communication between Liu and her sherpa but claimed that their separation was accidental. Kaitu Alpine then paid the whole rescue fee back to Fan and Xie.

8K Expeditions, the outfitter employing the two sherpas, said that they had no outstanding claims against Liu but never addressed the rescue offer.

Fan and Xie were disturbed by the online attacks against Liu and asked readers to leave her in peace.

Climbers ascending.

Climbers on Everest. Photo: Garret Madison


This story had a big impact in China. Weibo had more than 370 million clicks under the hashtag, “Woman rescued from Everest doesn’t want to pay full rescue costs.”

Liu herself has not said anything about the controversy.

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.