High Altitude Hero Visits Marines

MWTC Instructor Staff Sergeant Lee
Climbs with Chhiring Dorje Sherpa - 2013
Pickel Meadows, CA -  Once named the 'Cold Weather Battalion' with a mission of providing training to Americans headed to reinforce the Korean War effort, today's Marine Mountain Warfare Training Center prepares both Marines, Joint Service Members and Allied Forces with the expert knowledge necessary to operate in complex compartmented terrain situations.... aka The Mountains.  

Nestled in Toiyabe National Forest, on the eastern flanks of the Sierra Nevada just minutes from the small town of Bridgeport, California -  Pickel Meadows Base Camp elevation 2,000 meters is 3,000 meters lower then then the base camp on K2, the world's second tallest peak.  No matter the difference in elevations, Pickel Meadows and K2 base camps are coming together this spring.

Chhiring Dorje - Summit K2
"For over 60 years American and Allied Forces have been taught the skills necessary to operate in some of the world's most severe terrain" says Robi Powers, the host of American300's 'Never Quit Series, a nonprofit program which places mentors up close with Armed Forces members serving around the globe "behind every student that goes through Marine Corps Pickel Meadows Base Camp and the Marine Mountain Warfare Training Center ( MWTC) is a group of Cadre members that have truly been there... done that.  I'm excited to share a fellow mountain professional with them." 

On August 1, 2008 Chhiring Dorje Sherpa along with climbers from several international expeditions ascended from Camp 4 on the south east ridge of K2 known as the Abruzzi Spur.  Over the next 48 hours the worst climbing tragedy on K2 was recorded with 11 deaths.   

The number could have easily been Twelve!

The 2008 tragedy on K2 documented in two best sellers; ‘No Way Down’ by New York Times reporter and author Graham Bowley and ‘Buried in the Sky’ by authors Peter Zuckerman and Amanda Padoan along with films; ‘The Summit’ by director Nick Ryan and ‘A Cry from the Top of the World’ by director Fredrik Strang, provide a compelling look at what went wrong on the mountain that day. 

This spring climber; Chhiring Dorje Sherpa was recognized by the international climbing community with the Tenzing Norgay Quadrennial Award for his heroic efforts in saving a fellow countrymen above 8,000 meters.  

As all hell broke loose on the mountain and climbers were lost, broken and dying Chhiring Dorje Sherpa came upon ‘little’ Pasang Lama in the bottleneck section of the route.  In total darkness, without an ice axe, Pasang Lama had been left to die.  Pasang had given his ice axe to a stricken teammate earlier in the evening with hopes that the fixed ropes in the bottleneck would provide a safe repel to camp 4.  Instead Pasang found the ropes blown out due to an earlier avalanche.  Thinking he would die... having been passed by one descending climber already Pasang Lama was shocked by Chhiring Dorje’s take on the situation when the climber came upon him.

“... we can try for camp 4 together or we can sit down and die together...” 
The Bottleneck During Daylight
With his one ice axe in play Chhiring Dorje fixed Pasang Lama to his harness on a ‘short rope’ and together in total coordinated fashion managed to descend... Chhiring securing the one axe followed by the two moving their crampon fixed boots further down the 50-60 degree ice wall.  The descent took hours and involved Chhiring having to arrest two falls with the one ice axe... considered by many impossible unto itself, let alone the choreographed ice wall 'ballet' they pulled off together. 

“Everyday the Marine Mountain Warfare Training Center Cadre teach the skills necessary to survive while operating in the mountains” says Powers “being able to share Chhiring Dorje’s life stories with these amazing instructors will open lines of communication and thought that will only further to enhance the teachings of the future.” 

For more information on American300 Never Quit Series:  www.American300.org

For more information on Marine Mountain Warfare Training Center: www.mwtc.usmc.mil 
Members of USCM MWTC Cadre with Chhiring Dorje Sherpa - Base Theater April 2013
American300.org Never Quit Series 

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