Mountain rescuer Eugene Chyzmar: “Tourists believe that nothing may happen here.”

Most people who ever had something to do with tourism are well familiar with Eugene Chyzmar- an experienced climber, "Snow Leopard", who climbed the highest peaks in all the parts of the world. And he is also known as one of the most experienced employees of Transcarpathian Rescue Service.

In January, during a very short time in Transcarpathia, only at Borzhavska spine three tragic incidents occurred. Therefore, "Staryj Zamok" questioned Eugene Chyzmar on the dangers of winter Carpathians.


– Mr. Eugene, this winter has killed a snowboarder and seriously injured his friend, a guy from Czech Republic disappeared and the tragedy occurred to two experienced climbers. Are such events a characteristic feature of winter Carpathians or this season is exceptional?


– Beginning of the year was optimistic for us. Mountain tops were covered only with a 20-cm layer of snow. I can hardly remember the so-called sunshowers in winter but in January these heavy rains occured twice not only at the bottom, but on the tops as well, that led to melted snow. Therefore, it seemed that the season would be very quiet. But as it turned out later we had vain hopes.At first the disaster occured to snowboarders, then a guy from Czech Republic disappeared under mysterious circumstances. The police has joined to this case because we did everything we could. He was sought not only by professional mountain rescuers but also by workers from fire parts of Svalyava, Volovets and Mizhhirya. Also the foresters were involved who are very well familiar with this area. They searched all the possible and impossible places. But in winter it is almost unreal to find someone in the woods. On the second or third day one may be totally covered with snow. Once we have searched for a tourist on the slopes of Hoverla and then it turned out that we just walking over the body which was buried under thick layer of snow.After the Czech, there was another tragedy, with climbers who went to Mount Hymba. So the season was difficult. And I’m just afraid to think what may happen next.We see natural disasters again: one day we have rains, then sleet and after thaw comes frost. Therefore water that passes through the snow, is not absorbed by soils and remains on thick bilberry bushes. Then frost tightens it, and the whole slope gradually begins to rise, forming a kind of an air cushion. As a result, the slightest movement of the skier or snowboarder may trigger global avalanches, where chances to save people are very little.


– When the accident with snowboarders occurred, the Internet bursted with a lot of messages that these extreme fans had been inexperienced, arrogant and had no clue about the area where they had climbed. Then it turned out that the boys were quite experienced though. I do not even mention about the climbing professionals. Why have all these things happened?


– Usually tragedies happen because people when setting off to the mountains, do not take at least the minimum which I call "the essential set." If the guy from Poltava had at least a compass with him (preferably GPS), we would know if he had fallen to the northern slope or to the south. It’s very simple – just look where the arrow shows. If it shows up – you’re in the south. Then the search area is significantly reduced and the chances of saving increase. And when we are given only small piece of information – like lying in the couloirs, in the avalanche’s cone, in a large forest, and hooked a blinking flashlight on the shrubs – then it’s very hard to decide where to look that person. With snowboarders the situation is a bit easier than with ski-tour addicts or freeriders. Snowboarders usually do not like to walk on the mountain crests.  And do not ride travers.The search sector is then limited to the north and south accordingly. As it turned out, we were wrong starting from the north side.The southern slope of Hymba is the area of birch forests, and in order to get there one needs to cross Borzhava river seven times and walk about 20 kilometers. In this thaw, when water does not freeze, it is not easy to stay dry while crossinf the water seven times.


– And yet, why? The Carpathian Mountains are relatively simple. This is not the Caucasus, nor the Alps. Do the tragedies happen just to reckless people in "simple" mountains?


– Yes, most believe that nothing may happen there. The mountains look so homy, with their not very long polonines (alpine meadows), close forest and mild frost. People go to the mountains without adequate preparation, without warm clothes. In reality, the Carpathians are not so simple. I took part in climbing expeditions crossing many mountain ranges all over the world, but the first frostbite was received in the Carpathians. They are low, the weather is very changeable, wind gusts may turn to hurricane that may blow off an adult.


– Is the increase in number of accidents associated with the fact that in the last 10 years this kind of entertainment has become very popular?


– Indeed, recently freeride, ski-tours, snowboarding and back-country have become very popular. Every second freeride fan takes a video camera to make a movie about the ride, then put the videos online and flaunt. And any advice of the rescuers is ignored. We put bright yellow boards in Ukrainian, Czech and English languages which warn about the avalanche danger in the most critical areas. One of the tourists just stole one of them and carried it to the eaves. I even have pictures of these people jumping over this warning board, and then they were writing how much adrenaline they got from plucking an avalanche.Last year on Hymba couloir that runs to Shypit lawn, these tough guys launched a huge avalanche. It was a miracle that thay managed to withdraw. Part of the avalanche ran down the route where people from chair lift normally ride. Luckily nobody was there at that time. Otherwise tourists could be swept away, and we would not even find them. Though, in this part of Mountains avalanches may be really dangerous. About 10 years ago such avalanche descended to Shypit lawn with thousands cubic meters of snow. According to the station, located in the neighborhood about 20-30 avalanches descend here each year. It may happen even in the beginning of May, when the snow has almost gone.


– In general, do the tourists bare any responsibility for exposing themselves, rescuers and other people to danger?


– There are no clear provisions of the law on this matter. We can not prevent tourists from going where they want, if it does not a natural reserve or military facility. Rescuers can only recommend avoiding dangerous places.In general nobody can forbid people to go anywhere. But in other countries, mountain visitors have to be insured. Then all the costs are covered by an insurance company. We have meager funding, and tourists sometimes descend to the villages on their own, while we continue to look for them in the mountains. Thus, we waste money which is so sorely lacking.

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