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The most dangerous mountains in the world

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What really animates many of those we meet is the photograph of the frozen boy that Zana showed me. Like Zana, several have stored it on their phones. I first discovered it alongside articles in the Kurdish press explaining how Farhad Khosravi, 17, and his brother Azad, 21, left for one night. kolbar trip over Tateh from the village of Ney, outside of Mariwan, on December 16, 2019. I reunite with their companion, Zanyar Kawe, who was 18 at the time and said that although the mountains were covered with ‘heavy snow and the temperature was good below zero it should have been an easy walk. Kolbars regularly makes the trip over Tateh in winter with nothing more than a hat, coat and scarf, Zanyar said. Plus, the night was so cloudless, “you could have counted the stars”.

At the start, the trek went well. Having left at 1 a.m., Zanyar, Farhad and Azad took the plunge around 3 a.m. By 4 a.m. they had picked up loads of 90 pounds each and left. But after taking a break in a cave, Zanyar said: “Suddenly a snowstorm started. Strong wind, so strong we couldn’t see ahead of us. Azad started to feel bad. It was a reversal – Azad was a man, while his two companions were barely more than boys – and when the younger of the couple asked his older one what was wrong, he shrugged, picked up its load and continued to walk. But soon he would stop again, and although the precise reason was not clear – “I don’t know what happened to me,” Azad kept repeating – in Zanyar it was clear that he was “losing his mind. “.

By the time the trio reached the pass for the second time, Farhad and Zanyar were helping Azad carry his bag. When that became impossible, they dropped their charges and tried to give him a hug. By this time, however, Azad was falling a few steps away. Lifting him once, Zanyar noticed that his friend’s hands were stiff and his nose and the left side of his face were black. Either way, with only the finest protection in a blizzard above 8,000 feet, Azad was now frozen alive.

Ultimately, Azad said he couldn’t go any further. The others tried to drag him, without success. As Azad lay uncovered in the blizzard, Zanyar and Farhad covered his hands with their jackets, brushed the snow from his hair, and wrapped their scarves around his head. Then Zanyar faced Farhad. They had to run away, he cried over the storm. Once out of the mountain, they could send a train of mules back to Azad. Farhad shook his head. He was Azad’s brother. “I won’t leave him, Zanyar! He shouted. The two boys looked at each other, cried briefly, and then Zanyar left with Azad’s phone, to use once he got a signal. His last sight of the two brothers was that of Farhad kneeling beside Azad’s still body and rubbing it.

Zanyar came down. After a while, the phone rang in his pocket. It was the owner of the load, who wanted to know where they were. Zanyar described the condition and location of the brothers. The man said he would send a search party and asked Zanyar to keep going down. In less than half an hour, Zanyar was stripping in the cab of a pickup and warming up on the radiator. Around him, dozens of Ney’s men were climbing the mountain. They quickly found Azad, “with a heart still beating, but half-dead,” Zanyar said. “He died on the way. The rescuers also discovered two other kolbars suffering from frostbite, which they took away, plus three frozen mules, which they left behind.

There was no sign of Farhad, however. The search teams searched for three days. Finally, a neighbor fell on the body of the 17-year-old on the threshold of a hut at the foot of a mountain several kilometers away. The blood and broken glass around him suggested that Farhad had fought through the blizzard, only to be defeated by a locked door. Cutting himself while smashing a window to try to enter, he had collapsed. The photo I had seen was taken minutes after it was discovered and showed a friend cradling his icy body in the back of an ambulance. Later, a doctor would estimate that it had taken Farhad two days to bleed and freeze to death.

About Ray Coulombe

Ray Coulombe

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