Mountaineering towards death

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By Dotun Ibiwoye

Holding the rope firmly to with his calloused hands and looking up to the sky, the only thing revolving around his brain was to get to the zenith and take a rest for about twenty minutes. Maxwell was mountaineer. He climbs mountains for major purposes:

Firstly, for leisure and sport.

Secondly, to raise awareness for his campaign on greenhouse effect which is documented by his not-for-profit-organization.

Since the climbing is a routine, he never envisaged issue.

He kept looking at the sky as he does normally. He continued climbing the rope which was one inch thick and 114 metres long for the next twenty three minutes.

The steep mountain Maxwell was climbing with the aid of the thick rope was Mountain Nanga Parbat  which literally, means naked mountain. It happens to be the ninth highest mountain in the world at 8,126 metres /26,660 feet above sea level.

Located at the western anchor of the Himalayas in Pakistan. As he was about to grip the rope to elevate him to the next height, he noted the extricating pain under his left arm. He shouted.

The pain was so intense that he immediately had a migraine. He could not comprehend what had happened to his left arm so he hung on to the rope with his right hand.

After resting for a minute, on the rope, and a rock with his left foot, he tried raising his left hand again, that was when he realized that he was not able to move it the beyond fifteen degrees angle from his body. From experience, he was able to note the anomalies in the anatomy of a human being. The anomaly now concerns him.

With the gravity of the pain, he judged that the biceps brachii muscle in his left arm might be torn, which can be caused by a sudden force or stretch on the muscle.

He weighed his options- either to keep hanging on to the rope or hope for other mountain climbers spot him, then come to his rescue; or gradually slide down the mountain with one hand holding on to the rope.

He chose the first option. Holding on to the rope for the next seven minutes, he didn’t hear any sound from anyone around. He decided to shout for help. “Help, I’m holding on to a rope and I’m badly injured’’.

He shouted repeatedly for another three minutes. He repeated the same shout in vernacular French and Spanish language; just in case the people around do not understand English language. After twenty five minutes of shouting, he suddenly felt a wind chill around the back of his neck. The wind made his long blonde hair fly around his face. He shook his head to move his long hair from his face.

That was when he saw it above him.

The migraine stuck him again when both of them gazed that themselves eyeball to eyeball.

The barred owl was holding on to the same rope and looking menacingly at Maxell. Their faces were just twelve inches apart.

This gigantic bird of prey had a wingspan of about 5 feet and weighs 4 pounds/1.814 kilograms.

Barrel owls generally attack preys in at any given time. It is swift in targeting its prey and the prey does not hear when it is coming due to its specialized feathers.

It swoops and attacks the head of the target with its razor sharp talons. It can also peck, claw and squeeze the victim.

With impulse, Maxwell tried to move his left hand to scare the owl. His hand could barely move and he felt more pain.

The tricep strain was more severe than he had earlier imagined.

The owl moved closer to its vulnerable prey at more slower pace. Maxell shouted louder than he had even did in his forty three years of existence.

Unfortunately, the loud noise did not make any impact on the big bird as it continued to move towards the helpless man. The owl was just above Maxwell’s head and was about to strike him with its beak. Maxwell shook his head in several directions and made all attempt to head-butt the owl.

The owl’s reflexes were also fast as it attacks as it dodged the rampaging head-butts from Maxwell.

This wrestle continued for two minutes and the owl was unable to inflict much damage on the head of the desperate man.

Although Maxwell was able to use his head as a weapon, he had also sustained several injuries from the blows of the owl’s beak. He was bleeding from four different spots on his head.

The owl also realized that its attacking tactics was not achieving the desired result, it left the rope and flew on Maxwell’s shoulder. Maxwell screamed and cried. The owl bit the desperate man more viciously. Maxwell continued to shout. As the bird continued its assault Maxwell was also sliding down the rope screaming like a lunatic in the asylum.

A rescue group of mountaineer who heard Maxwell’s scream were also in a helicopter 80 metres away from the scene of the attack.

The group watched the helpless man fight desperately for his life as their sniper was aiming at the two objects in the telescope of his 20 mm caliber Denel NTW-20 rifle.

The sniper got his target. He pulled the trigger. The bullet pierced the owl and tore it into two. Maxwell was rescued.


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