Shrinivas Sainis Dattatraya, Indian-origin Everest climber from Singapore, has been missing for nearly 48 hours now, and every passing hour makes his family more fearful. Shrinivas is married to the noted Carnatic vocals artiste Sushma Soma, which is why the music fraternity, including sitar player Anoushka Shankar, has joined the plea for help.
In a Twitter post late last night, Anoushka, daughter of the late sitar legend Pandit Ravi Shankar, urged people to sign a Change.org petition, saying that her “friend Sushma’s husband” was “lost on his descent” after climbing the Everest, and that the signature campaign was necessary to mobilise a search party.
As per reports, it is the sherpas (Nepali mountain guides) who are searching for Shrinivas. But there are no reports of a major helicopter-led search and rescue operation, the kind that was seen on Mt Annapurna recently, when several Indian climbers went missing (and were found later).
In fact, carrying out a helicopter search and rescue anywhere near the summit of Mt Everest (8,846.86 metres) is next to impossible. Modern copters may be able to fly up to that altitude, but the air is thin and there is almost no place to land safely.
The record altitude for a helicopter rescue on the world’s highest mountain is 7,800 metres, carried out in May 2013 — nearly 10 years to the day when Shrinivas went missing — by Simone Moro, Italian climber and helicopter pilot. He, accompanied by two other rescue experts, carried out a longline rescue, where the line is lowered from the helicopter to the mountaineer who needs the rescue, and then the helicopter carries the mountaineer hanging from the line to a safer point, and lowers him/her at that point.
The altitude at which Shrinivas went missing probably explains the absence of an aerial rescue attempt. The Change.org petition, started by the family of Shrinivas Sainis Dattatraya, aged 39, said that he had left Singapore last month and went to Nepal to climb Mt Everest. He was supposed to return to Singapore by June 4.
He did reach the summit of Mt Everest, but on the way down, he was affected by frostbite and altitude sickness. This resulted in Shrinivas getting separated from his group, and he “fell at around 8,000 metres, likely onto the Tibetan side of the mountain”.
This happened sometime on Friday, and the sherpas began their search yesterday. Shrinivas was last heard from at a height 8,500 metres, from where he spoke to the Everest base camp.
Through the petition, the family is trying to get the attention of any and all the government agencies that can help. The news outlet Channel News Asia quoted a family member as saying, “This matter needs to be brought to their attention on an urgent basis. We need a special rescue team that is trained to operate in such risky terrain as well as to ensure that this whole rescue operation is not hindered by diplomatic paperwork.”
Various news sources reported that Shrinivas told Sushma on satellite phone that he had summited Everest, but that he was finding it difficult to descend, because he was suffering from “high-altitude cerebral edema”, which can be fatal. Sushma found out around 2am yesterday that her husband was missing.
Local authorities in Nepal, the Singapore High Commission in New Delhi, and the Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs are reportedly in touch with the family.
Shrinivas is an executive director at real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle in Singapore. His wife Sushma Soma recently performed at the SIFAS Festival of Arts in Singapore.