Climber Whose Life Was Saved By A Sherpa On Mount Everest Refuses To Give Him The Promised Payout For Doing So

Published June 14, 2023

After being separated from her Sherpa, a woman nearly died on Mount Everest. Fellow climbers found and rescued her, promising one of their own Sherpas that the unconscious woman would pay him a rescue fee. She refused, sparking a social media firestorm.

Mount Everest Climbers

WeiboXie, Fan, and their Sherpas rescue Liu from Everest’s “death zone.”

On May 18, 2023, a Chinese climber named Liu Qunying was discovered unconscious in Mount Everest’s “death zone” — a dangerous stretch of mountain with frigid temperatures and low oxygen. Later, she refused to pay the Sherpa who saved her a standard rescue fee, prompting a public outcry that would lead to Liu being doxxed.

Liu had reached Everest’s summit and begun the descent when she and her own hired Sherpa got separated. While she was alone, Liu’s equipment got stuck on a rope at 27,000 feet.

By the time another climber, Fan Jiangtao, and his Sherpa, Lakpu Gelu Sherpa, found her, Liu’s face was covered in ice, one of her hands was black from frostbite, and she had run out of oxygen, Insider reported.

Fan and Lakpa made the decision to abandon their ascent and rescue the stranded Liu, but it proved difficult. Hours passed. Fan and Lakpa grew exhausted, and with Liu unconscious they had only managed to carry her around 650 feet. The sun set, and night fell.

By a stroke of luck, Fan and Lakpa encountered another pair of climbers, a teammate of Fan’s, Xie Ruxiang, and his Sherpa, Pem Chiri Sherpa, who were ascending the mountain. Pem, the group agreed, was the strongest among them, and so they asked for his help in bringing Liu the rest of the way down Everest.

Then, Xie made a decision that would have future ramifications for the unconscious woman: He told Pem that Liu would pay him a standard $10,000 fee if he helped rescue her. According to the South China Morning Post, Sherpa guides typically charge a fee of $8,000 to $10,000 to guide mountaineers to Everest’s summit through severe weather, while also preparing their equipment and carrying much of the gear.

Pem agreed to help, and together, the four transported the still-unconscious Liu to Camp 4, Lakpa and Pem providing her with oxygen while Xie and Fan kept her legs elevated.

Around the same time, Liu’s Sherpa, Lakpa Pemba Sherpa, realized his client had not made it back to Camp 4 after he did and set out to find her, only to be informed that she had already been rescued. The two reunited the next morning around 7:30 a.m.

This is when things grew even more complicated for Liu. On Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, Xie and Fan swiftly rose to viral stardom. Users of the social media platform celebrated the climbers for abandoning their ascent to help a fellow mountaineer, and for persevering through the 11-hour journey to bring her back to camp.

When Pem approached the climbers the next morning regarding his fee, however, the situation grew tense. Fan and Xie reimbursed the Sherpa in the interim, but when they asked Liu to repay them for the fee, she reportedly refused.

Xie And Fan

TwitterXie Ruxiang and Fan Jiangtao, the men who abandoned their ascent to rescue Liu Qunying.

“Each of us paid the guide tips of $1,800, and [Liu] said she would pay $1,500 as a tip. For the rescue fee of $10,000, Liu said she would only pay $4,000,” Fan said, according to the South China Morning Post. “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 he spent 40 days preparing to climb Mount Everest and spent a total of 400,000 yuan ($56,000) to reach his goal, all before paying the fee to rescue Liu.

“I don’t know what to say. I am just wondering why she is reluctant to pay,” Fan said. “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.”

Liu’s reluctance to pay the rescue fee quickly made rounds on Weibo, and users were even quicker to attack Liu. According to data viewed by Insider, the tag “Everest rescued woman doesn’t want to pay full rescue expenses” has been viewed more than 370 million times on the social media app.

Part of this fire was fueled by leaked screenshots of Fan and Xie criticizing Liu in a group chat, but the social-media frenzy also led to numerous hateful comments about Liu and even doxxing.

Users on Weibo have made comments saying they should “send her back” to Everest and spreading misinformation about Liu, including claims that she attempted to ascend the mountain solo despite such attempts being banned by Nepal.

So far, the 50-year-old Liu is the only party involved who has yet to comment on the situation.

“We saved her, and hope that she can live a good life, and we hope that the doxxing, attacks, insults, and other behaviors will stop on the internet, and that the cyberbullying ceases,” Fan wrote in a post on social media.

Meanwhile, Kaitu Alpine, the mountaineering team Liu ascended with, issued a statement saying, “In this incident, the accidental separation of Ms. Liu and the Sherpa was a mistake in our work, and we must take responsibility for this.”

Xie also confirmed that he and Fan has been reimbursed by Kaitu Alpine for the rescue fee.

“The mountaineering company admitted that its mistakes were the cause of Ms Liu’s crisis, and thanked us and paid for the rescue expenses we advanced,” Xie said.

Xie further expressed that he was “deeply disturbed by Miss Liu’s encounter with cyberbullying.”

“We’ve saved her, so we hope she can continue to live well,” Fan said. “We should stop online attacks and humiliation.”

After reading about this harrowing encounter on Mount Everest, learn about how Beck Weathers survived being left for dead on Mount Everest — twice. Then, read the stories behind nine of Mount Everest’s most haunting deaths and the bodies left behind.

Austin Harvey
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Austin Harvey has also had work published with Discover Magazine, Giddy, and Lucid covering topics on mental health, sexual health, history, and sociology. He holds a Bachelor's degree from Point Park University.
Maggie Donahue
Maggie Donahue is an assistant editor at All That's Interesting. She has a Master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and a Bachelor's degree in creative writing and film studies from Johns Hopkins University. Before landing at ATI, she covered arts and culture at The A.V. Club and Colorado Public Radio and also wrote for Longreads. She is interested in stories about scientific discoveries, pop culture, the weird corners of history, unexplained phenomena, nature, and the outdoors.
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Harvey, Austin. "Climber Whose Life Was Saved By A Sherpa On Mount Everest Refuses To Give Him The Promised Payout For Doing So.", June 14, 2023, Accessed May 25, 2024.