Senior Expedition Leader at Exodus Travels (a global adventure travel company)
I was to lead a trek in Pakistan to K2 Base Camp. It was a hard, remote 3 week trek which involved sleeping on glaciers in tents, scarcity of water and walking at altitude on difficult terrain. We were preparing to trek to K2 Base Camp when I noticed that a member of the group, Kenny wasn’t well. Kenny rested that day but when we broke camp the next morning Kenny had deteriorated. I began to fear altitude sickness and walked with him all day monitoring his behaviour. When we arrived at the camp for the night I knew that Kenny had a cerebral edema (an accumulation of excessive fluid in the brain caused by altitude). Kenny could no longer tie his shoe laces, he did not know when his birthday was and he could not talk coherently or respond to my questions.
Kenny lost consciousness in his tent. It was dark and cold and everyone was hungry, I had no means of communication and I desperately wanted to talk the problem through with someone. I asked the group to set up camp get warm food inside them and told them we would break camp as soon as the sun rose which was about 4.30am. I built a stretcher with Kenny in the tent to ensure that he continued to breathe. We rose at 4.30am and with Kenny on the stretcher made quicker progress and dropped height. We rested for the day once we were at a safe altitude and camped there for the night. Kenny started to recover and after several more days of trekking I returned the group back safely to our base.
My dilemma was that I was responsible for the whole group and did not want to endanger anyone by continuing to walk in the dark and I did not want to split up the group. Although it was a very lonely night, I learnt that you can listen to yourself and talk yourself through situations and make the right decision for everyone.