A National Geographic climber and photographer was airlifted off Mount Everest Saturday after suffering a possible, though as yet undiagnosed, pulmonary embolismâ€”a blockage of an artery in the lungs, often due to a blood clot.
The photographer, Cory Richards, is part of a National Geographic Society and North Face expedition commemorating the 50th anniversary of the first U.S. ascent of Everest. It is not yet clear how his illness might affect the project.
Saturday afternoon, local time, it became clear that Richardsâ€”then at around 23,000 feet (7,000 meters) with expedition leader Conrad Ankerâ€”would need to turn back due to shortness of breath and an inability to maintain a normal respiratory rate. Despite initial reports, Richards’s ailment “is not an altitude issue,” he emphasized via email from Nepal early Sunday, local time.
Later Saturday, down the mountain at Camp 2 (21,200 feet/6,462 meters), doctors, fearing an embolism, gave Richards supplemental oxygen and advised him to continue down Everest, Richards said.
At the time National Geographic magazine picture editor Sadie Quarrier emailed magazine staff from Everest Base Camp (17,600 feet/5,364 meters) that Richards was “in immediate need of helicopter rescue … ”