A woman from China who almost died while climbing Mount Everest has allegedly refused to pay the Sherpa guide who saved her life a US$10,000 rescue fee, prompting a backlash on mainland social media.
Two other Chinese mountain climbers who helped rescue the woman found unconscious at 8,500 metres above sea level ended up paying the fee, news site cqcb.com reported.
According to Chinese media reports, the 50-year-old woman from central China's Hunan province, identified by the surname Liu, was found unconscious near the peak of Mount Everest by the Sherpa guide, who was not identified in the report, as he was escorting Fan Jiangtao to the summit on the evening of May 18.
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Fan agreed to help save Liu and, in doing so, knowingly abandoned his dream of reaching the summit.
The two men only managed to move Liu 200 metres before they reached the limit of their endurance due to the extreme conditions. Fan then went alone to seek help and encountered Xie Ruxiang, a fellow Hunan Provincial Mountain Climbing Association member. Xie agreed to help with the rescue, abandoning his plan to reach the summit.
Xie claimed his Sherpa guide, the strongest climber among them, was initially reluctant to help so he offered a reward of US$10,000 and he then agreed.
Sherpa guides charge a standard fee of US$8,000 to US$10,000 to help mountaineers climb up Everest by guiding them in severe weather conditions, preparing their equipment and carrying much of the gear.
Nepal issued a record 478 permits for Everest during this year's March to May climbing season.
The men then worked together - Xie's Sherpa guide carried Liu on his back while Xie and Fan took turns keeping her legs elevated to help increase blood flow as they descended to a base camp, where she received treatment for several days before she recovered.
Liu had successfully ascended the summit and was on her way down when she experienced problems.
However, when the Sherpa guide asked Xie and Fan about his promised rescue fee, Liu refused to pay the full amount, according to Fan.
"Each of us paid the guide tips of US$1,800, and she said she would pay US$1,500 as tips. For the rescue fee of US$10,000, Liu said she would only pay US$4,000," Fan claimed.
"What she said angered me. I told her, 'Since that is your attitude, I don't want a cent from you. You don't need to give me any money.'"
Fan said: "I've been preparing to climb Mount Everest for 40 days and spent 400,000 yuan (US$56,000) on reaching this goal. I was unwilling to give up on my plan to reach the peak. What's more, the rescue fee was paid by me. I don't know what to say. I am just wondering why she is reluctant to pay."
"Xie and I feel bad about this incident. So far, she has not even said 'thank you' to us. She is so ungrateful! We don't want to have anything to do with her from now on," Fan further added.
The story has caught national attention in mainland China, being viewed 300 million times on Weibo alone, with many denouncing Liu.
"After this saga, will future climbers save or help others on Mount Everest? I think probably not. This woman has quashed the living hope of other climbers who get into trouble climbing Everest," one commenter said.
"We should send her back to the mountain slope," another person commented.
A third commenter asked: "Does she have a conscience? Is her life not worth US$10,000?"
The furious public backlash prompted Xie and Fan to ask the public not to bully Liu.
"Saving her is our choice, and expressing gratitude is hers. These are two separate things," said Xie. "We are not her and don't understand what she felt. Let's just show tolerance."
Fan agreed: "We've saved her, so we hope she can continue to live well. We should stop online attacks and humiliation."
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This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.
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