Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Eiho Otani

How “Three cups of tea” generated 80 schools for little girls?

Greg Mortenson was readying on September 1993 to give the final assault to climb the second highest peak of K2 in the Baltistan district in the Karakoram region (north-east of Pakistan). The team of 10 alpinists (mount climbers) has been preparing for months for that adventure. Mortenson was to be the physician of the team: He was a graduate student in chemistry and a certified nurse and worked in the emergency sections of hospitals in the San Francisco Bay area.

Instead of taking the traditional path on the south-east opening of the team of Count Abruzzi 7 decades ago, the team of Mortenson decided to try the new path that the Japanese Eiho Otani and the Pakistani Nazir Sabir had opened 12 years ago.

Mortenson, a football player, 193 cm tall and weighting over 200 pounds, was naturally selected to be the beast of burden for carrying supplies, equipment and … to the various bases during the climb. Scot Darsney was assisting him.

The chiefs of the expedition were the veteran Daniel Mazur, Jonathan Pratt, and Etienne Fine.

After 70 days of ascent, Greg and Scott reached the base. They were arriving from a supply mission that lasted 96 hours and were about to hit the sac when they saw the distress emergency light signal on the last base (last 600 meters to climb). Etienne Fine was in bad shape with pulmonary edema due to altitude.

The two climbers tried to find volunteers from the different climbing teams on base, and ended up doing the climb on their own. Mazur and Pratt were descending from Camp 4 at 7,600 altitude and caring for Etienne.

Over 72 hours later, the Pakistani army commanded that the team carry Etienne to a lower base for the evacuation by helicopter. By the time Etienne was evacuated, Greg and Scott had used up the last of their energy and were unable to rejoin Mazur and Pratt for the final assault.

Mazur and Pratt finally made it a week later and announced their victory.

On Sept. 2, 1993, Greg and Scott were en route for yet another supply mission when Greg lost track of Scott and his helper Mouzafer Ali. All the important supplies and warm cloths were carried by Ali.

Mortenson was lost, alone and in environment not familiar to him. The next day, by hazard, Mouzafer found Greg and immediately made him drink 3 hot cups of the rancid tea with Yak butter, the local paiyu tchai.

Mouzafer Ali was a Balti who saved Greg from certain death as he got lost in the Baltoro glacier.

Mortenson again lost track of Mouzafer and ended up in the village of Korphe instead of Askole where Ali was waiting for him.

How these 3 cups of tea and the way the Nurmadhar (chief) of Korphe, Hajji Ali, treated Greg and cared for him for many weeks until Mortenson was in shape to resume his life is the story that generated over 80 schools in North Pakistan by the year 2006, and increasing steadily, to cover the Wakhan Corridor in Afghanistan.

As Greg was recuperating his energy in Korphe, he asked Hajji Ali to show him the village school: 82 kids and only 4 girls were studying in the open freezing air, writing on the sand, shoeless, and learning on their own: An instructor shows up twice a week to teach these kids because the regional government could not afford another single dollar per day for a second teacher… While Pakistan was pouring its wealth on the Siachen glacier to pound the Indian army for part of Kashmir.

Greg laid his hands on Hajii Ali shoulders and promised that he will build a school in Korphe…

How Mortenson started his adventure of collecting funds and establishing the Central Asia Institute is another story… to follow.

Note: Journalist David Olivier Relin wrote the book “Three cups of Tea” after recording Mortenson diaries, conversations, and pictures and witnesses


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

August 2020
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