A pair of hikers from Taiwan who had been missing in the Nepali Himalayas for seven weeks were found Wednesday. However, only one of them was alive.
Liu Chen-chun, the 19-year-old girlfriend of Liang Sheng-yue, died just three days before rescuers arrived, according to reports. The cause of death remains unclear.
Liu’s remains were airlifted out of the region along with Liang, who was conscious when rescuers spotted him in a ravine close to the the Narchet River along the remote Ganesh Himal route west of Kathmandu.
That Liang wasn’t just alive but conscious came as a surprise to Madhav Basnet, one of three rescuers who helped get Liang to a hospital Wednesday.
“In our heads, we never thought they would be alive,” Basnet, an official of Kathmandu’s Asian Trekking Agency, told CNN. “So when we found the boy alive, we got scared for a second. He greeted us by saying ‘Namaste.’ He was very happy.”
According to Dr. Chakra Raj Pandey of the Grande International Hospital in Kathmandu where Liang was transported, the surviving hiker “looks okay” overall. Liang had to have his head shaved to remove lice as well as a procedure to remove maggots from his right leg. Pandey told CNN, however, “we have to be vary particular and very careful to give him good nourishment.”
Liang, 20, told rescuers that he had not eaten for “several days” and that it might have been longer than that. Liang reportedly lost more than 60 pounds over the 47 days he spent wandering the Himalayas, according to the Taipei Times.
The pair set out on their journey in late February, but by early March their families had stopped receiving updates from Liang and Liu. Shortly after that, Nepali officials launched a search. It is believed the pair got sidetracked by a snowstorm, which led them to seek shelter in a nearby cave. With only 10 days worth of food in their packs, however, they quickly found themselves in an emergency situation.
The couple eventually set off in hopes of finding a village but got stuck in the ravine when they continued downhill to a river, where they ran into a waterfall. Without the ability to climb back up, all the couple could do was wait for someone to find them.
“They had a drop of about 100 meters on one side and a steep uphill on the other,” Basnet told the Taipei Times. “They were trapped.”
The wait was long and, without proper shelter, uncomfortable, according to Liang, who told the Taipei Times it was “very cold” and difficult to sleep.
A day after Liang’s rescue, his recovery was going well, according to Basnet, who told CNN that Liang slept well and ate six bowls of soup.
The biggest concern now is Liang’s mental health, according to Dr. Pandey, who described the man’s psychological state as “not very stable.”
Chou Chiang-chieh, a friend of the couple who spoke to the media Thursday, said Liang continues to grieve the loss of his girlfriend.
“[Lui] fought to survive in the Himalayas for so long, and I am really sad she didn’t make it,” Chou told the Taipei Times. “It’s such a pity, she’s like family to me.”