Gau Ming-Ho, famously known as Makalu Gau is a Taiwanese mountaineer. He got his name Makalu Gau after the 5th highest peak in the world. He led the Taiwanese expedition to Mount Everest during the 1996 Mount Everest disaster.
Bravery and determination was what Makalu Gau represented. He was fierce and fearless. His adventurous nature made him stand out among others and created a leader.
Born and raised in Taiwan, Gau’s journey to the highest peaks on Earth stands as a proof to human resilience and an undying commitment to pushing the boundaries of what is possible.
In this article, we will explore the incredible life of Makalu Gau, a true inspiration to climbers.
Early life of Makalu Gau
Makalu Gau was born in 1949 in Ruifang District, Taipei County (now New Taipei City). He was born within the vicinity of the Rui Fang coal mine. Makalu’s father worked in the coal mining industry.
Makalu Gau’s love for the mountains began at an early age. Growing up in a country known for its amazing landscapes and mountainous terrain, he developed a deep appreciation for the great outdoors. A passion for hiking and mountain photography ignited in him .His interest in the Himalayas increased as he kept on witnessing the beauty and nature that revolves around the Himalayas.
With a focus on Construction and Building, Makalu Gau completed his education at Zhong Yuan University. Initiating in Zhong Xing Engineering Company, he began his professional journey. He was carrying his profession while maintaining his love and passion for the Himalayas.
It was in 1973 when Makalu began his mountain climbing journey in Taiwan, giving a start to his adventures in the Himalayas. His affinity for climbing became clear after his successful ascent of the 1,120 metre Seven Star Mountain in the outskirts of Taipei City. His dedication to the mountaineering world was marked with this feat.
Mountaineering Career of Makalu Gau
Makalu Gau’s hometown is in a mountainous area, his interest for hiking, mountaineering and mountain photography all started there.
Makalu Gau started his mountain climbing journey in Taiwan in 1973. It was the start of a legacy which is taken as a source of inspiration by many nowadays.
Conquering the Yushan Eastern peak’s north wall led to the establishment of a climber’s club. He then continued his exploration and scaled the glacier wala using the Korean Seoraksan approach. He climbed the Tapachien Mountain’s north-western wall. Whatever obstacle came in between Makalu overcame them all and moved ahead in his journey.
He went for training in the North Alps of Japan, refining his techniques and expertise. His thirst for knowledge led him to the National Skiing and Mountain Climbing School in Chamonix, France. He delved into advanced learning and studied Mount Matterhorn.
Venturing to South America, he conquered the Andes’ Mount Aconcagua, Argentina. He kept on improving and expanding his ventures. He also set his sights on Nun Peak in India.
Makalu climbed India’s Mount Saser Kangri (7,672 meters). He also summited the world’s sixth-highest peak, Cho Oyu in Tibet. His expedition reached a far range to North America and climbed Alaska’s Mt McKinley. His enthusiasm led him to the pinnacle of mountaineering as he conquered the world’s highest peak, Mount Everest. In 1996, he undertook the journey up the south slope of Mount Everest. This expedition of Makalu is often talked about in the mountaineering community.
Makalu had no intention to stop after completing such adventures in his life. He set out to seek for more of the thrill. Cang Mountain, Yulong Snow Mountain, and Mei Li Snow Mountain in Yun Nan were the mountains he explored and gained a diverse sense of knowledge. He also took his journey to Kailash in Tibet.
The Himalayas became a playground for this man, wherever he stepped foot he conquered that place. He was excellent, his hard work and his passion was seen in his work. His impact was truly sensational.
1996 Mount Everest Disaster
On 10 May 1996, Makalu reached the summit of Everest with his members. Most of them reached the summit an hour after the planned time and were caught in the blizzard that eventually claimed the lives of eight other climbers. Gau was unable to continue down the mountain suffering from exhaustion and his oxygen supply depleted. He was left in a bivouac with Lopsang Jangbu Sherpa and Mountain Madness Expedition leader Scott Fischer, who was also tired.
Lopsang descended on his own to find help, leaving Gau and Fischer. Fischer was far too gone to save, so they rescued Gau, managing to bring him back to Camp 4. Fischer died on the mountain and his body was found by his climbing partner and it remains on Everest to this day.
Gau and fellow climber Beck, who also survived a night of exposure on the mountain, were taken down to Camp 2 with the help of other teams. Both men were evacuated in one of the highest altitude helicopter rescues on Everest. Beck spent over 10 months in the hospital with Gau. Due to frostbite, Gau lost all his fingers, toes and his nose.
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The journey after the incident
Makalu Gau went through many amputations and treatments after the Everest incident. Medical intervention and plastic surgery played a vital role in his recovery journey.
He had the front ends of both soles removed, which resulted in diminished support during walking. Grafting pieces of flesh from each arm onto the corresponding foot was employed to craft new soles.
Makalu Gau continued climbing even after such a horrific incident and returned to Everest as a team leader in 2007. Reconnecting with the mountains was overwhelming for him. Gau was happier than ever to be experiencing the mountains again. He also returned to Tibet.
His foot mobility was restricted but his spirit was not. He had the same spirit in him to conquer challenges and always move forward. His resilience exceeded physical limitations. His life motivates everyone to conquer obstacles and stand for what we love, and what we desire to do.
Makalu Gau will always remain one of the most fierce climbers in the history of mountaineering. He is an unstoppable force that refuses to settle down.