Planning any hike and assessing possible hazards, Jane Riga (41) always kept saying: the little daughter should not be left alone... When foreseeing danger, her husband Tarmo (43) took a climb when feeling like it, while Jane stayed in base camps or at foot of mountains altogether. Just in case.
Headed towards the Tocllaraju peak early last Sunday in Peru, Jane did have her doubts initially but must have grown inwardly convinced to go ahead.
This was a traditional route, used by hundreds or even thousands before. Tocllaraju not being the end goal – merely a place to get the organism acclimatised to heights.
In the mountains of Peru, Jane, Tarmo, Allan Valge (36) and Annemai Märtson (33) had already been climbing for a week.
The 5,540 metre Ischinca under their belt, by Sunday the 6,034 metre Tocllaraju top was near enough. After that, they’d taken a rest in the city of Huaraz, and then the aim itself – Peruvian highest peak Huascaran of 6,654 metres.
Unlike the mountains in Europe, those in Peru – on Pacific Ocean shore – come with constant and abundant snow. It is moist, and the winds blow strong. The terrain keeps ever changing, and the climbers are confronted by snow bridges and cornices. Of one such, Jane blogged in the message that proved her last.
Regarding the 70 degrees slope at the final end of Tocllaraju, the Estonians were well forewarned. We know not if they ever made it that far up – but Peruvian rescuers say they were no farther than 130 metres from the top of the mountain that fatal Sunday.
Regarding snow bridges, actions are well rehearsed – provided they are able to recognise one. In case it is, one will cross as assisted by others. Having fixed a rope, others follow in a manner more safe and secure. Possibly, having reached a plateau, the Estonians never detected the bridge – while on upward climb, these can be spotted from below.
Or, perhaps, the gap underneath was wider than expected. The first to cross secured the rope, but perhaps on ground still hollow underneath. After the first three crossed the snow bridge, or so they thought, the pressure possibly became too much and it caved in.
The mass of snow would have taken the trio with it, and the fourth – Annemai – may have been the last to go down with a smaller amount of the white stuff.
Or, perhaps, an avalanche occurred. Or was there a cornice that broke nearby? As mountaineers know, from these no-one is ever totally protected. No matter how careful and prepared – as the Estonian quartet definitely was. Regarding Jane the English philologist, air traffic controllers Tarmo and Allan, and gynaecologist Annemai, this is what all who knew them are absolutely assured of.
These guys prepared diligently, always. «This had to be some totally stupid and tragic accident,» observed a friend, commenting on Annemai the only one to return – now in intensive care at a private clinic with broken ribs, crushed lungs and clots of blood.
A surgery has been performed. The doctors say she’s alert and functioning. Surgeon Julio Vizcarra says she might take months to recover.
Yesterday, sisters of Annemai extended thanks to all who have financially supported the recovery. Asking to spare the family from public limelight until Annemai has gained the strength to tell the story.