Canadian honoured for heroic Mount Everest rescue

A Canadian mountain climber was honoured as a hero in Nepal on Monday for rescuing a severely ill woman on the snow-covered slopes of Mount Everest.

A Canadian mountain climber was honoured as a hero in Nepal on Monday for rescuing a severely ill woman on the snow-covered slopes of Mount Everest.

Meagan McGrath, 29, was scaling down the world's highest mountain on May 21 when she came across Nepalese climber Usha Bista.

Bista was leaning on a snowbank near the summit, barely conscious, her brain swelling because of high altitude cerebral edema, a potentially fatal condition that canaffect climbers.

"It was a very tenuous situation," said McGrath, a seasoned mountain climber who grew up in Sudbury, Ont., and now lives in Ottawa. "I did not have everything I needed to help her. Her condition was deteriorating to a point where I was very concerned that she would die."

McGrath, who's an aerospace engineer with the Canadian military, flagged down another climber and his guide. The trio called other climbers to help.

Once more climbers arrived, the group bundled Bista into a sleeping bag, strapped her onto a sled and pulled her down the 8,848-metre mountain, known for its icy, rough terrain, high winds and thin air.

Bista has now recovered, although she's still suffering from frostbite on her hands and feet.

"I am indebted to these people for life," Bista said Sunday, who described her team of rescuers as gods. "I can't believe the love and concern they showed to rescue me in spite of such a difficult situation."

Called a hero

McGrath said she was happy she was able to help.

"I am glad I was the one person who started the chain, I suppose, but I am glad someone jumped in," she said. "As we brought her down, she was deteriorating. She started to become less conscious to the point of mumbling."

High altitude cerebral edema, a form of altitude sickness that generally comes on suddenly, causes climbers to feel confused, hallucinate and lose consciousness as their brain swells. The best chance for survival is to be immediately removed from the high altitude environment and get medication.

Ang Tshering, the president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, called McGrath a hero on Monday. The association organized a ceremony in her honour in the Nepalese city of Kathmandu, giving her a bouquet of flowers and a yellow scarf, used to mark special occasions in Nepal.

McGrath finished her Everest climb on the weekend, after reaching the summit May 20. She is the youngest Canadian on record to climb the highest mountain on every continent. She's also the first member of Canada's Armed Forces to do so.

She climbed Australia's Mount Kosciuszko (2,228 m) in 2006, Antarctica's Vinson Massif (4,897 m) in 2004 and Alaska's McKinley (6,194 m) in 2003.

In 2003, she also climbed Elbrus (5,642 m) on the Russia/Georgia border, while she climbed Tanzania's Kilimanjaro (5,963 m) and Argentina's Aconcagua (6,962 m) in 2002.

With files from the Associated Press