Makalu: High Winds Thwart Piyali Basak’s Evacuation

Two days after she fell ill and was unable to descend from the summit of Makalu, Indian climber Piyali Basak is still on the mountain. She is conscious, but her condition is serious.

The helicopter assigned to pick Basak up from Camp 2 flew to the mountain today. Unfortunately, it could not reach her because of high winds, Nivesh Karki of Pioneer Adventure told ExplorersWeb.

Helicopter manifest on the left of the svcreen and the tracking map on the right.

A tracker showing the helicopter’s route on Makalu. Photo: Pioneer Adventure


Basak summited on Wednesday without supplementary oxygen, as part of a Pioneer Adventure group. During the descent, Basak was moving very slowly, and at 7,400m she was unable to continue. According to Pioneer Adventure, her Sherpas had to go down without her because they were running out of supplementary oxygen.

The outfitter sent a Sherpa team on foot to help her the following day. By the time they reached her, Basak had spent a night in the open and had been without supplemental oxygen for 24 hours.

Yesterday, the Sherpa rescuers could only bring Basak as far as Camp 3. This morning, they set off again toward Camp 2, the highest point the helicopter could reach. They arrived at noon, and the helicopter took off immediately, but conditions on the mountain were too difficult to perform the rescue safely.

“I have told the Sherpa rescuers to bring Basak as low as they can,” Karki said. As the afternoon goes on, it becomes less and less likely that conditions will improve enough for a helicopter evacuation today.

Other rescues

Reports from various local publications have revealed two other climbers in trouble. Danielle Wolfson of Israel and her supporting Sherpa lost their way on Makalu. Wolfson managed to send an SOS through her satellite device, and a rescue team went to their location. Yesterday, she was airlifted off the mountain with snowblindness and frostbite.

Close shot of the exhausted climber, with swollen eyes.

Danielle Wolfson after her rescue. Photo:

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides graduated university in journalism and specializes in high-altitude mountaineering and expedition news. She has been writing about climbing and mountaineering, adventure and outdoor sports for 20+ years.

Prior to that, Angela Benavides spent time at/worked at a number of local and international media. She is also experienced in outdoor-sport consultancy for sponsoring corporations, press manager and communication executive, and a published author.