Himalaya Flyboys

0 Posted by - January 14, 2015 - Mens Journal, The Nameless Creature

If you’re climbing or trekking in Nepal and run into serious trouble, who’s going to come save you?

In October and November 2014, I travelled to Kathmandu on assignment for Men’s Journal to write about the nascent effort to bring modern helicopter search and rescue teams to the Himalaya. On Everest and the other commercialized peaks, mountaineers often take it for granted that once they are below 7,000 meters, the operating ceiling for the latest generation of Airbus AS350 B3 helicopters, a rescue is only a sat-phone call away. But in Nepal, nothing is guaranteed. Despite the fact that the country is visited by more than 80,000 tourists annually, and that a sizable slice of its own population lives beyond the road-network, the developing nation lacks even a centralized rescue call center or an emergency alert system.

That’s not to say there aren’t good men willing to answer the call for help. Because there are no air-ambulance services in the country, virtually every helicopter pilot in Nepal is, from time to time, a rescue pilot. To the man, it is a job they take seriously, and will execute to the extreme limits of their abilities. Among this small community of aviators flying in a cowboy country, however, only one outfit could be said to field a competent rescue team: Simrik Air, a private company, whose personnel have engaged in a long term project with the Swiss-based Alpine Rescue Foundation and Air Zermatt to train the first cadre of Nepalese helicopter rescue specialists.

Whether it’s an avalanche on Everest or a trekker with a bad head cold, when a call for help comes out of the high-Himalaya, these are the guys whose job it is to respond.

 

Captain Siddartha.
Wind, Snow, and Sky.
Man of a million bolts.
Sunset at KTM.
Old birds, new birds.
The dangler.
The new working man of the Himalaya.
Angel's Wings
A Somber Assignment
Men of the flight line.
Everyone remembers their first helicopter ride.
A well-oiled machine.
Systems check.
Everyone ounce counts.

Captain Siddartha.

Siddartha Gurung, the chief pilot and operations manager at Simrik Air.

Wind, Snow, and Sky.

The Ganesh Himal rising northwest of Kathmandu.

Man of a million bolts.

Bishnu Basynot, chief flight engineer for Simrik Air.

Sunset at KTM.

Old birds, new birds.

The heliport in Lukla.

The dangler.

Chhiring Dhenduk Bhote is longlined in to recover a body from below Camp II on Ama Dablam.

The new working man of the Himalaya.

Payload master and rescue specialist Dawa Lama.

Angel's Wings

Flying into Ama Dablam on a recovery mission.

A Somber Assignment

Ang Tashi directs Siddartha, with Chhiring Dhenduk below, in to a landing after successfully recovering the remains of a climber on Ama Dablam.

Captain Surendra at work.

Chhiring Dhenduk Bhote and Ang Tashi Sherpa in Lukla after a successful recovery mission.

Men of the flight line.

Simrik Air's pilots.

Everyone remembers their first helicopter ride.

While long-lining equipment for a hydro-electric plant in the Mansalu region, the team gives a family a free lift down valley.

A well-oiled machine.

Bishnu at work.

Systems check.

American pilot Aaron Mauck preparing to take off from Lukla.

Everyone ounce counts.

Doors off to limit the weight.

Captain Siddartha. thumbnail
Wind, Snow, and Sky. thumbnail
Man of a million bolts. thumbnail
Sunset at KTM. thumbnail
Old birds, new birds. thumbnail
The dangler. thumbnail
The new working man of the Himalaya. thumbnail
Angel's Wings thumbnail
A Somber Assignment thumbnail
 thumbnail
 thumbnail
Men of the flight line. thumbnail
Everyone remembers their first helicopter ride. thumbnail
A well-oiled machine. thumbnail
Systems check. thumbnail
Everyone ounce counts. thumbnail