‘This year, Everest defeated us’

Ravichandran expressing his sorrow over the loss of Awang Askandar, and Muhammad Hawari who is missing. ­— Bernama

SEPANG: The death of a Malaysian while climbing Mt Everest, with another one still missing, has brought tears to the eyes of national solo climber T. Ravichandran.

“We have been conquering Mount Everest, but this year, Everest beat us,” said Ravichandran as he recounted his experience with the late Lt-Kol Awang Askandar Ampuan Yaacub.

Awang Askandar, 56, was confirmed dead last Friday after a fall, while Muhammad Hawari Hashim, 33, went missing when descending from Camp 4 after reaching the peak of the world’s highest mountain at 8,848m.

“This year is the second time we met on the mission to conquer Mount Everest. This time, I was in front of them, and I also faced tough challenges of extreme weather during my descent from Everest,” he told Bernama at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport yesterday upon returning from the 2023 Himalayan Sports Everest-Lhotse Expedition.

According to Ravichandran, on May 17, he managed to reach the top of Everest and waved the Jalur Gemilang and the sponsor’s flag before descending on May 18 to climb Mount Lhotse (the fourth highest mountain in the world, at 8,516 m), but he had to be rescued and taken to Kathmandu due to frostbite on a finger.

Ravichandran, 58, had intended to set a record as the first Malaysian climber to conquer the summit of Mount Lhotse after raising the flag at the peak of Everest within 24 hours.

It was Ravichandran’s fourth time at the peak of Everest.

Bittersweet conquest: Ravichandran being greeted by his wife, Leela Ramamurthy, upon his arrival at Kuala Lumpur International  Airport. Bittersweet conquest: Ravichandran being greeted by his wife, Leela Ramamurthy, upon his arrival at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

Regarding the fate of the two Malaysian climbers, Ravichandran said he could not figure out what happened to Awang Askandar and Muhammad Hawari.

Muhammad Hawari was with a group of climbers to the top of Everest together with Awang Askandar, who is also the Kedah Civil Defence Force director for the Malaysian Everest 2023 mission.

According to him, even though they were on different teams, they often met at the Everest Base Camp to rest and have meals together.

“Climbers are usually friendly, not to mention there were only five Malaysians, so we were very close – like a family – regardless of race, religion and age.

“On the day we headed to the top of Everest, Muhammad Hawari was with me from Tent 1 to Tent 2. He is a great guy, even though he is mute and deaf. Every time we meet, we always start with a hug and a tap on each other’s head,” he said with tears in his eyes.

Ravichandran prayed that Muhammad Hawari could be found even though the conditions were very challenging due to the weather.

He said this incident had deeply disturbed him, but he hoped the younger generation would not shy away from mountaineering, which is always full of challenges and risks.

“Everest beat us this year. Last year we returned with pride, but this year is different because of the loss of lives.

“So far we have recorded 10 (deaths), including Awang Askandar, compared to three last year. This year’s wounds are quite deep mentally,” he said.

According to Ravichandran, every mistake and defeat experienced by Malaysian Everest climbers needs to be reviewed, including weather, technical and training factors to reduce the risk of the mission to conquer the mountain.

“People always think that only funds are important, but they are not, because many aspects need to be managed to reduce risk. We have to take the initiative seriously and not underestimate the risks when it comes to the mission to conquer Everest,” he said.

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