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Iranian Rescuers Fail to Airlift American Hiker's Body

Source: Iranian Cultural Heritage News Agency

The body of an American hiker fell to death in the Mount Damavand, would not be stretchered down till late Friday, Iranian Red Crescent officials told CHN. She was slated to be airlifted by Thursday evening, but the operation was put off due to ferocious blizzard on the 18,000-foot Mount Damavand, the second-highest volcano in the Northern Hemisphere.

It is now decided to take down the honored 69-year-old lecturer's body on a stretcher to a hamlet named Nandel instead. The body would be then sent to Amol, a city 270-km north of Tehran, for forensic autopsies.

Despite an extensive rescue operation involving over 300 rescuers, Kathleen Namphy, a cancer survivor and honored Stanford lecturer, could not be saved and her body was discovered on Thursday.

The frost-bitten body was found out at 9:30 am Thursday in Divareh, a locally-named area of the 18,000-foot Mount Damavand, the second-highest volcano in the Northern Hemisphere.

Organized by Iranian Red Crescent, rescuers were initially due to airlift the body down to a mountainous village Nandel, but their operation was delayed due to bad weather conditions. Authorities have told CHN they have to wait till Friday morning.

Namphy, a veteran hiker who scaled Mt. Kilimanjaro last year, is believed to have died from a fall after she was ignored the pleas of local mountaineers who urged her to stay in a shelter while her head was still bleeding.

S.L. Wykes of San Jose Mercury News had earlier reported that Namphy was scaling with Todd Sipe, a Chicago attorney who made the climb on Mt. Damavand with Namphy and another American.

When Sipe last saw Namphy, she was having a snack and enjoying the spectacular view on the way up the mountain. The three Americans had set out Sunday morning with two mountain guides and Mehrdad Etemadi, who knew the mountain well, said Cyrus Etemadi, director of the Tehran tourist agency that arranged the trip.

Namphy had fallen behind, and Sipe and the other American went on, but turned back when their guides grew nervous about the weather. It was on their return down the mountain that they passed Namphy and interpreter Mehrdad Etemadi, who said he tried over and over again to convince her to turn back as well. She refused. "She said, 'I'm strong enough. I was on Kilimanjaro and that's higher than Damavand,"" Mehrdad Etemadi said from Iran.

He said the pair made it to the mountain's top, where Namphy collected stones to bring home to friends. But on the way back, about 100 meters below the peak, Namphy fell and hit her head.

"For one or two minutes, she couldn't talk, she couldn't move," Mehrdad Etemadi said. "I moved her, she started to open her eyes, but her head was bleeding. I was so nervous. A group was at the summit. I shouted to them to help. They said they would stay with her."

Etemadi ran thousands of feet down the mountain, but by the time rescuers reached the spot, there was no sign of Namphy or the other climbers. It was dark, snowy and windy, so the rescuers guessed that the hikers had taken Namphy to another shelter on the mountain's north side.

They set out again at first light Monday for the north face shelter, where other climbers told a confusing tale. The rescuers reported to Cyrus Etemadi that either the mountaineers who had agreed to stay with Namphy had not done so, or that she had gotten up and walked for a bit, but fell again and died.

Either way, Etemadi said, he has no idea where the people who were last with Namphy are now. All that the Iranian guides have found, Etemadi said, is blood on the rocks where Mehrdad Etemadi last saw Namphy and wrappers from candy bars the interpreter gave her.

Lisa Namphy, her daughter, received a call Sunday from the Swiss Embassy in Tehran, Iran, informing her that a hiker came down from the trail with news of her mother's death, AP reported. A subsequent call Monday said officials could not find a body and did not know what had happened to the hiker who reported the news, a former Berkeley, Calif., resident.

"We all love our mother very deeply, and she has all of our support," son Paul Namphy tearfully told the San Jose Mercury News. "We're just really in a state." Kathleen Namphy had originally planned to make the trip with a Seattle company that guided her on her second Mount Kilimanjaro climb last year. But not enough people signed up, leading the company to recommend a respected Tehran guide company.

... Payvand News - 8/27/04 ... --

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