Leslie John Binns, a UK ex-serviceman, was barely 500 metres away from the summit of Mount Everest when he decided to turn around, give up him life-long dream, and save the life of another mountaineer who needed help. Sunita Hazra, a 32-year-old Indian mountaineer who lived near Kolkata, had scaled the peak just a few hours ago but was facing difficulties during her descent.
A resident of Rotherham, South Yorkshire, the heroic Mr. Binns was in the Army for 13 years and was blinded in the left eye after an explosion in Afghanistan.
He said that he was “immensely proud” to have saved a life but wished he could have also helped save another climber, who died on the descent. He brought Sunita down to safety on May 22, the day on which he was supposed to have scaled the peak himself.
On the early hours of May 21, Mr. Binns was about to reach the area nicknamed “The Balcony” – where climbing teams store spare oxygen bottles, when he noticed someone sliding down towards him. Sunita was terrified as she was gaining momentum, but Mr. Binns managed to stop her, only to find that she was not left with any oxygen. He helped her recover and she tried to continue her descent but collapsed after 20 metres.
“It was at this point I decided to cancel my summit bid to help Sunita…I climbed down to her and called my Sherpa. I told him we are not going up and we would give Sunita my spare oxygen bottle and take her down,” he told BBC.
The trio came across another man who was trying to descend and Mr. Binns decided to help him too. But due to exhaustion and difficult weather conditions, they were unable to bring him along by the time they the camp.
“I gave Sunita my sleeping bag in my tent. We then tried our best to get her warm by patting and rubbing her. She was suffering from hypothermia and her right hand was badly frost-bitten…I then remembered we had a flask of ginger tea. I used this to try and re-warm Sunita’s hand. I dried it off and told her to keep it in her fleece pocket which would keep it warm,” he told BBC.
“A young Indian lady had slipped on her descent and fell, landing at the anchor next to Les. She had been in distress due to depletion and supposedly no replenishment of her oxygen, and now she was injured from the fall. Les without hesitation aborted his summit bid to assist and help her down…Binns did everything he could to try and get her legs under her and get her moving. Frustrated as people continued to walk by uninterested in assisting, Les clipped her into him and began dragging her down.” C Michael Fairman, who worked for the US Marines, wrote while describing how Mr. Binns saved Sunita.