Home>Service> Awardees of Fervent Global Love of Lives Award> 9th Fervent Global Love of Lives Award 2006> Narrow escape from death─Makalu Gau
Scare in climbing the summit; feel the mountains
      Makalu Gau, a hero in climbing Taiwan summit Mountain Everest, climbed on the tallest mountain in the world Mountain Everest on May 10, 1996 at 3 pm. He was guided by two Sherpas at that trip; when he was enjoying the beautiful scene from the top down, he was rushed back to the foothill because of the urge from two sherpas. After a while, a sudden storm almost stopped them from going downhill with dropping temperature to 60 degrees below zero. He was surrounded by darkness, and couldn’t see anything. He took a deep breath and tried very hard to call his own name in order to stay awake. Then, he discovered that a strange beam of light appeared from the sky, a first ray of morning sun. He told himself that he had to stay awake for the sunrise.

      He had used all his energy and slipped into coma. This storm got eight lives from the mountain-climbing teams in U.S., New Zealand, and Japan. Makalu Gau suffered from 15 surgical operations using his determination; his nose, ten fingers, ten toes and two foot heels were removed. After rehabilitation, he became the counselor in the rehabilitation ward to accompany people face the therapy with courage.

      He always says: ”One meaningful thing in life is enough.” He has love for mountains and hopes to finish “Chinese Mountain Photography Plan” using his story of escaping death. He wanted to return and record the true color of hundreds of Chinese famous mountains; he hopes that the younger generation can learn the wisdom and virtue of enjoying mountains. He has now finished 45% of the exploration, photographing and field study including Tibet, Uygur region, Si Chuan, and Yun Nan. He estimated that he would publish in 2008 to share with the whole world. Makalu Gau bravely climbed the mountain and faced death with courage; after the accident, he still loves the mountains and cherishes his life. He deserves to be a role model of “Narrow escape from death”. 

      Born 1949 in Taipei County Rui Fang coal mine, Makalu Gau’s father was a coal mine worker. He started to climb the coal pile in front of his front door. After graduating from Zhong Yuan University Department of Construction and Building, he entered Zhong Xing Engineering Company. He started his life career with mountains after climbing the Seven Star Mountain in Taipei City suburb. He climbs almost every famous mountains home and abroad. He lost his career and marriage just for a silent mountain. In 1982, he began to go abroad and climbed the tallest mountain in the world. In 1992, he failed in climbing the summit; yet in 1996, he succeeded. However, with the unpredictable storm, he was saved with serious frostbite on fingers, toes heels and nose; and finally, those parts of the body were removed by surgeries. Fifteen operations and terrible rehabilitation procedure have never hindered his desire to embrace mountains again. In order to finish his life mission of Chinese Mountain Photography Plan, starting from 1991, he planned to finish by 2008.

      A life summary of Makalu’s spectacular mountain experience:
      1973 Began to climb high mountains in Taiwan
      1981 Climb Yushan Eastern peak on north wall; founded climbers’ club
      1982 Climb the glacier wall by way of Korean Seolaksan; climb the Tapachien Mountain on North-western wall.
      1983 Mountain-climbing training on North Alps in Japan
      In 1984, he learned in France National Skiing and Mountain Climbing School in Chamonix France and studied Mt Matterhorn 4470m. In 1985, he went to California Yosemite National Park for rock-climbing and moved to Mt Matterhorn 4470m in Swiss.
      1988 South America Argentina Andes Mt Aconcagua 6956m
      1989 Mountain training in Japan; India Nun Peak 7135m on Himalayas
      1991 India Mt Saser Kangri 7672m
      1991 world’s sixth summit, Oyu 8201m in Tibet
      1992 North America Alaska Mt McKinley 6913m; Tibet World’ highest Mt Everest 8848m
      1993~1994 Himalaya on Tibet highland
      1995 North America Alaska Mt McKinley 6913m
      1996 South slope to Mountain Everest in Nepal 
      1999~2000 Himalaya in Tibet
      2001 World’s second summit K2, 8611m on Kunlun Mountains
      2002 Cang Mountain, Yu Long Snow Mountain and Mei Li Snow Mountain in Yun Nan, Mountain Deity RenBoChi in Tibet (Kailash 6638m)
      2003 Mei Li Snow Mountain and Yu Long Snow Mountain in Yun Nan; base camp walking on Mountain Everest in Nepal
      2004 Xinjiang Tianshan Mt Bogda, 5565m and Mt Tomur,7443m
      2005 Xingjiang Kunlun Mountain Qong Muztag 6920m
      Surprise from climbing the summit; a fright coming from mountains.
      Guided by Makalu Gau, the “Summit Everest Expedition Team of the Republic of China” set the base camp at the foothill of Summit Everest after 7 days of waking in early April of 1996. They needed to climb upwards on glacier up to the tallest summit at 8848 meters, which would probably take one month. Four camps were built with 1 kilometer distance in between. Due to gravity, the glacier would break and become difficult to walk on. After one week, they finally set up the first base camp at 6000 meters.

      After 3 days, they moved on to 6400 meters, the source of glacier where the terrain was smooth. They then set up the second base. They climbed glacier, putting ice nails on and tied the rope. After climbing a whole day, every team member finally arrived the third base camp at the height of 7300 meters above sea level. 

      The weather was nice on the second day. Everyone swarmed climbing upwards for almost 8 hours and reached the fourth camp at 8000 meter above sea level, which was also the last camp for them to conquer the summit of Everest. 

      Around 10 at night, he and three sherpa started their action and walked for several hours. After the sun came out, they continued to climb till 12 at noon and reached 8500 meters above sea level with additional 300 meters to the top. Because the scarce of air at high altitude had caused him unable to catch his breath; finally on May 10, 1996 at 3 pm, he climbed on the world’s highest mountain—Mountain Everest. 

      After climbing the summit, he took pictures and enjoyed the surrounding scenic views which include 2400 kilometer of Himalayas and Tibet highland on the north with many glaciers and snowy mountains. Two sherpas urge him to go downhill. 

      After returning for a while, the wind began to blow and started to snow which blocked their view to go downhill. They went down for a couple of hours and could not see anything with winding blowing loudly. All he could do was lying on the glacier and became sleepy in less than 10 minutes while the body temperature had dropped to 60 degrees below zero. He told himself that he would be dead if he fell into sleep; then he found a way to keep awake by calling his own name loudly. 

      He could not maintain awake after struggling with the scarce energy inside his body. Suddenly, he thought of being unwillingly to die when he finally accomplished the Everest climbing mission. He wanted to live so that he began to hit himself on the legs and body to keep warm. He also took deep breath for air flowing into his body. 

      At a blink of death, he turned around and found a strange ray of light appeared from the sky. It was the morning rays before the sun comes out. A hope of life kindled in his heart; he told himself to keep on living and waited until the sun comes out. Until 1 pm, he heard someone was calling him and he couldn’t open the eyes. Suddenly, one oxygen mask was covered on his face; he took a breath and was awake. The person who saved his life was the sherpa who went downhill due to problem of mask. 

      After one day, people sent him down the hills from 8000 to 6000 meters. At last, he was bound using plastic boat and dragged on snow like a dead body. He was carried by a helicopter and flied directly to Katmandu in Nepal for emergency surgery. Two days later, he was sent back to Taiwan; two more days later, family and friends arranged his trip to Alaska in the U.S. for frostbit therapy. 

      Ten days later, American doctor confirmed the frostbite injury on his body needs to be gotten rid of. Due to financial issue, he had to fly back to Taipei Chang Keng Hospital for 15 surgery operations to cut off 10 fingers, 10 toes, two heels and a nose. He is always thankful that God did not let him die on the Mountain Everest; therefore, he considers that there must be some mission which needed to be accomplished. So, he started his “Chinese Mountain Photography Plan” since 1991. It has done approximately 20% of the project. He thought that he should finish it. 

      Although he does not have feet and hands, he asked himself to stand up instead of spending the rest of his life on the wheelchair. He started to learn climbing using knees and learned standing, moving steps, washing face, brushing teeth, eating, writing and computer knowledge, taking pictures. He finally learned to drive with techniques going back to Taiwan. 

      In 1998, he took a plane to fly to Tibet and test his physical condition to see if he can do the explorative photography in regions above sea level. The result came out positively and he would have more time to finish the “Chinese Mountain Photography Plan” 

      After several years of effort, he finished the exploration and photography in Tibet. He went to Xinjiang Uygur, Si Chuan and Yun Nan in 2000. He had finished 45% at the end of 2005. It was estimated to completely finish by 2008. Makalu Gau’s photography exhibition is shown in the appendix as follows:
      Tibet humanity nature exhibition in National Taichung Museum of Fine Art. 1998
      Chinese mountain achievement exhibition in Taipei 2000
      Tibet image special exhibit Taipei Elite Bookstore 2002
      Chinese Mountain achievement exhibition in Taipei 2004
      Xingjiang image exhibition in Taipei and New Your 2004