Linus Westermann (25) came to Nepal early September 2013 for trekking the Annapurna Circuit. On September 11 he started from Besisahar in Lamjung heading for Jomsom. On the 12th day of trekking, on Sunday September 22 at about 12:00 noon, Linus has gone missing from the Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP) office in Manang. He told the ACAP staff he would take a walk to the Gangapurna Lake and from there into the hills. He was wearing only a T-shirt and jeans and had no other belongings with him. He has never been seen again since.
The SAR DOGS NEPAL's search mission started on September 27, 2013 and lasted for 5 days until October 1 but the whereabouts of Linus Westermann remain unknown. He has not come far away from his last point of sight and he was ill-equipped to stay outside in the rough landscape at night.
We do not believe in foul play or a crime in this tragic event. Based on his porter's observations during the trek it is obvious that Linus Westermann suffered a form of high altitude sickness. Despite that he was unmistakably mentally disordered, the ACAP staff didn’t care for Linus while he was walking away from the Manang ACAP office.
There is fear of that he may have died of hypothermia. He may also have fallen into the Gangapurna Lake which is dangerously steep and cold.
Read the report below for details about his disappearance and the following search operation.
Report by Karna Bahadur Dura, Squad Leader, October 3 2013
SAR DOGS NEPAL team which was involved in Linus Westermann search mission:
- Karna Bahadur Dura, Squad Leader & Liaison to local authorities
- Purna Tamang, SAR Dog Handler of Aldo
- Gau Prasad Pun, SAR Dog Handler of Hunter
- Suk Bahadur Lama, SAR Dog Handler of Hunter
- Ambar Thapa Magar, SAR Dog Handler and first aid paramedic
- Aldo (Air Scenting Dog, German Shepherd)
- Hunter (Man Trailer Dog, German Short Hair Pointer)
Purna Tamang, Air Scenting Dog Aldo, Suk Bahadur Lama, Man Trailer Dog Hunter,
Felix Westermann, Ambar Thapa Magar, Gau Prasad Pun, Volker Westermann, Dil Bahadur Bhujel.
Photo by Karna Bahadur Dura.
From Kathmandu with Dynasty Helicopters, round 12:15pm, Volker Westermann (father of Linus), Felix Westermann (other son of Volker Westermann and brother of Linus), Dil Bahadur Bhujel (Linus' porter) and myself (Karna Bahadur Dura) reached Shyauli Bazaar in Lamjung, the base camp of SAR DOGS NEPAL. From Shyauli Bazaar onward three SAR members, one dog and the porter flew to Manang, but due to bad weather the helicopter was diverted from Timang back to Shyauli Bazaar.
Volker Westermann and his son didn’t wish to return back to Kathmandu and decided to stay at Shyauli Bazaar that night. There would be a next flight to Manang with our SAR teams the morning after.
At night in Shyauli Bazaar I interviewed Dil Bahadur Bhujel, who had joined us to help with the search:
Story from Dil Bahadur
The Trekking office paid him daily salaries of NRS 1000, in total Rupees twelve thousands for 12 days. It was planned that the trek will extend for more after 12 days, if possible.
1st day - Beshisahar
They arrived on September 11, 2013.
2nd day - Beshisahar up to Bahundanda
Start of trek.
3rd day - Bahundanda to Tal
4th day - Tal to Danyaku
5th day - Danyaku to Chame
6th day - Chame to Lower Pisang
They reached around 1:30pm-2:00pm. Up to here Linus used to take lots of photographs of the panorama views and felt very happy. They returned back to hotel and had rest at around 5:00pm. Later on, when the porter looked into Linus his room he was not there, so the porter asked the hotel owner about it. The hotel owner had seen Linus going out with his camera. The porter searched for him around the area, but didn’t find him. At around 8:15pm Linus returned back to the hotel. The porter advised him not to go out alone without him knowing it. The porter also noticed that Linus used to smoke cigarettes very often.
7th day - Lower Pisang to Manang
They had lunch at Bhraka and reached Manang around 2:00pm–2:30pm.
Overview of Manang as seen from the south. ©Gau Prasad Jugjali Magar, SAR DOGS NEPAL
8th day - Manang to Khangsar
At around 8:30am they went around Gangapurna Lake, and Linus took several photographs, smoked for 4/5 times and returned to the hotel at 10:30am. They took rest for a while and then ordered breakfast. They started to continue the trek at around 1:30pm.
9th day - Khangsar to Tilicho Lake Base Camp
They lunched at Himalayan Guest House and Restaurant, Shree Kharka, Khangsar at 12:00am, met with other tourists and Linus was suddenly crying there. The porter asked him whether he has any problem but got no answer. They rested there for 45 minutes, then they walked on and reached Tilicho Base Camp at around 3:30pm. Linus was looking up the menu to order food, but he said nothing until half an hour later. Then he ordered eggs and fried rice but ate only two/three spoons full. At Tilicho Base Camp it was raining during the whole night until the next day 12:00 noon. All the tourists were returning from base camp because of heavy rainfall. The porter asked him what he was planning to do and he then decided to turn back.
10th day - Tilicho Base Camp to Shree Kharka
They return from the base camp around 12:30pm after the rain stopped. In between base camp and Shree Kharka Linus smoked a lot and got a headache on the way. He took two painkillers with water and after half an hour they reached Shree Kharka at around 4:30pm. At around 5:30pm he got genital pains and head problems and he was very upset. He cried and said that he was going to die. That night they slept in the same room. Linus didn’t sleep until 3:30am.
11th day - Shree Kharka to Humde
That morning the porter noticed that Linus was mentally disordered, because he was not able to recognize his own things. He claimed that he was not going anywhere, because his father and mother had arrived. Around 6:45am, they started their journey back to Humde. Linus was carrying his small bag full with camera gears and laptop. He had his two walking sticks. He used to walk very fast. After walking from the hotel for around 5 minutes down he suddenly threw his stick down to the bushes, a distance of about 8 to 10 meters. The porter was not always able to see Linus due to the several turnings of the trail around the hills, he only could see him when the trail was straight. Linus was walking very fast, the porter was not able to catch up with him. The porter did his best to stay close after Linus had thrown his stick into the bushes.
Soon he found another stick on the trail. The porter was not able to see Linus this time. At the same time three foreign trekkers came up from Khangsar. The porter asked them if they had met Linus on the way but they said that they hadn’t seen him. These trekkers helped the porter to search for Linus but didn’t succeed. After another short while Linus reappeared on the trail without his belongings. He was crying and saying “Where is my porter, where is my porter?”. They hugged each other and cried. A lady trekker gave Linus a bottle of water but he didn’t drink from it.
The porter asked him about his belongings but Linus said that he didn’t know what had happened to them. While Linus was just going up and down the trail for several times the porter and the 3 trekkers searched approximately 3 hours for Linus' bag but were not able to find it. At about 11:30am they went back to Humde which they reached around 5:30pm. After the local police got word that Linus was in such mentally disordered state he was advised to stay there.
12th day - Humde to Manang
Linus was taken to Manang by a local on a motorbike for a medical checkup. Unfortunately in Manang the hospital was closed, so Linus was taken to the ACAP (Annapurna Conversation Area Project) office in Manang. While the porter was going up from Humde to Manang by foot, which took about 2 hours, the porter met the returning local with the motorbike who said that he had left Linus at the ACAP office. Later a staff member of the ACAP office, Mr. Binod Dongol, told that Linus was staying at a lounge for some time, took his jacket off and went out, saying that he was going to die.
The porter reached ACAP office at around 12:15pm. He asked the ACAP officer for Linus and later also the locals. He got word that Linus went up to the hill, crossing the bridge of Marshyangdi River. One worker from Bhraga village came for his hand treatment and he also tried to catch up with Linus but he was gone very fast. The porter took their luggage to the hotel and informed the police in Humde that Linus was missing. Then he went up to the hill across Manang, searching for Linus until 5:00pm. After he returned to the hotel he informed his trekking office in Kathmandu about the vanished Linus.
Policemen came to Manang from Humde and searched until 1:30pm. Then the porter went back to Lower Pisang and where he stayed a night.
The porter reached Humde police check point and all the belonging of Linus, which the porter had carried for so long, were checked by the police and they made a name list of all items. Then the porter went to Chame, the headquarter of Manang District. In Chame again Linus' luggage was checked by the police and again a list of the belongings was made. The porter continued that day walking down to Dharapani where he stayedfor the night.
The porter went to Bhulbule and took the night bus to Kathmandu.
The porter reached Kathmandu at 11:00am by spending the night in the night bus to Kathmandu and went to the Mount Fuji trekking office in the morning.
(End of Dil's story)
The SAR dog handlers met with one of the local ACAP staff (Gyamjo Gurung) at the ACAP office. A local representative of Bhraka village, Mr. Karma Tsering Ghale, had seen Linus only dressed in underwear at the upper hill of Bhraka a few days ago next to Bhraka monastery. Therefore the SARDOGS NEPAL team together with Volker Westermann, Felix Westermann, the porter Dil Bahadur, Karma Tsering Ghale and 5 policemen went to that area. They searched all the cliffs, the valley and the jungle around Bhraka until around 4:00pm. This mission had no result.
SAR dog handler Purna Bahadur Tamang and SAR dog Aldo in action above Gangapurna Lake.
We went to the hill above the Gangapurna Lake where Linus was last seen. At the same time we got information that Linus was seen in the jungle of Bojo Gumpa between Bhraka and Manang village. The porter was sent to that place to check together with the policemen. We used our man trailer dog Hunter at first stage. Every cliff, bush and hut was searched around that hill.
Manang Valley as seen from the west.
Our SAR teams were divided into three groups:
Mr. Ambar Magar with his German Short Hair Pointer Hunter went to the jungle at the glacier side above the Gangapurna Lake. They searched the jungle and left side bank of the Gangapurna Lake.
Second group: handler Purna Tamang and his German Shepherd Aldo, SAR Dog leader Gau Prasad Magar and local guide Karma Tsering searched around the jungle below the Gangapurna Himal.
Third group: myself, father Volker Westermann and Linus' brother Felix checked the cliff around the tea house at the view point of Gangapurna Lake. After that we searched the whole jungle and I noticed a man from far distance. I checked this out, but I was mislead. The person was a local shepherd from Manang, he worked for the Manang Hotel. He said that a guide and a tourist had seen Linus at a monastery above the Manang village the day before.
Our group rushed to that area while the police and the porter were also informed to go to that area for searching. We also made a poster with reward NRS.50,000 to find Linus alive, in the hope that locals and tourist may inform us in case they found him.
The Gangapurna Lake is a dangerous place to visit!
This time we divided into two groups: Hunter and his handler Felix, Ambar and myself went to the Monastery area while Mr. Volker, Gau Prasad, Purna and his dog Aldo went in the westward direction from Manang village. All went up to the hill.
The other group found an old man above the monastery. He used to herd yaks in the hills. I and Volker Westermann went up to Gunsang village. We attached a search and reward photo/poster on the wall and returned back to Manang in the evening. We all met in a hotel in Manang. Again, that day went by without any results.
In a hope of finding Linus, we also focused on our religious belief. A few SAR staff members went to meet the clairvoyant lama nearby the Bhraka village. The lama had contacted the Rinpoche in Kathmandu and Solukhumbu and told that Linus may be beneath the dense black forest between east-south directions. He would be found alive if the search was going on for a few more days. If the teams were not able to find him within these few days, then some locals would inform about the location of Linus.
Three SAR staff members and dog, three policemen, two locals and myself decided to search this area called Milarepa’s Cave and the surrounding jungle. Another group that included two SAR staff members, Felix Westermann, Volker Westermann and three policemen decided to search again from the Gangapurna hill.
With a new hope given by the clairvoyant Lama, we decided to search the hill above Gangapurna Lake and Milarepa’s cave and up to Kresang Gumpa. At 8:00am both teams started searching the targeted area thoroughly.
We searched every bush, cliff, gorge and valley until 2:00pm. It was hard for the dogs to find the trail because the scent article was not pure, it was touched by several people like policemen, porters etc. Another reason is that every day the area is used for walks by other trekkers, shepherds and the locals. Hence this may also interfere and confuses the dog.
The jungle was full of thorny bushes so it was hard for all to get through. The dogs got thorns in their feet. We all met at Bhraka hotel for lunch and started searching again to the area below Kresang Gumpa. We searched until around 5:00pm. Then we all returned back to the hotel.
In the evening, we planned to go to the area where Linus belongings were missing. We decided to search again in two places, i.e. one group to the bank of the lake to other side and one group to the area where Linus lost his bag that contained camera, passport, laptop etc.
At 6:20am we started our journey to the area to search for Linus and his belongings. Myself, the porter, Purna and his dog went to Shree Kharka. Our group reached the place where Linus had thrown the stick while returning back from Shree Kharka to Manang. There I and Purna went to see if the lost walking stick was there somewhere. But we didn’t find it and used air scenting SAR dog Aldo to check the area. It was just around 10 m far below the trail.
The porter was sent to the hotel in Shree Kharka to gather any information about Linus. We got word that the walking stick was taken away by a person who was on the way to Manang, as seen by the owner of the hotel in Shree Kharka. Then this group returned back to the trail where Linus had thrown the walking stick a second time. This group met with Volker Westermann and Felix Westermann near the Gumpa (Buddhist monastery) beneath Shree Kharka.
The porter showed us the location where Linus started to give confusing signs. Here SAR dog Aldo was used again to track the trail of the belongings from Linus. Since Aldo was walking three days already in the thorny bushes and jungle, Purna knew that it was hard for Aldo to walk around. He was not so much interested anymore to search and track the trail. Karna and the porter searched the area down the trail. This group searched all the hills up and down the trails but got nothing.
Volker Westermann and son Felix were advised to stay on the trail until Aldo had searched the area. I had seen the previous day during the jungle search that while Aldo checked the scent article of Linus, he started to trail Volker Westermann instead. Purna told me this happened before as well. He said that while Aldo was sent to search the hill area, he used to go back to the place where Volker Westermann and son Felix were walking. Every time Purna had to alarm Aldo to come back to him. The scent article items were polluted with another human scent and were useless.
The other group: Suk Bahadur, Hunter, Gau Prasad and Ambar were searching the jungle and right side bank of Gangapurna lake and the confluence of Gangapurna stream and Marshyangdi River. They also got not any sign from that area. The policemen were also coming searching at the river bank of Marshyangdi from Humde up to Manang. They also got zero result.
After we searched the Shree Kharka area we reached the ACAP office. There we found a piece of paper written by Israeli trekkers with little information about Linus. They met Linus and his porter in Humde before Linus disappeared. The ACAP personnel seemed not so much interested in this matter.
- It is obvious that Linus suffered a form of high altitude sickness.
- Police in Humde is responsible for this case since Linus was visibly mentally disordered and was reported there correctly in time by his porter Dil Bahadur Bhujel. The next day Linus was sent to the Manang health center accompanied with a local, instead of a police escort. This should never have happened.
- Another disturbing fact is that since the Manang health center was closed Linus was directed to the ACAP office in Manang where the ACAP staff didn’t care for him. They let Linus walk away alone from the ACAP office in a mentally disordered state, despite that this was seen by the ACAP staff.
The whereabouts of missing trekker Linus remain unknown. He didn't come far from his last point of sight and he was ill-equipped to stay outside in the rough landscape at night. There is fear of that he may have died of hypothermia. He may also have fallen into the lake which is dangerously steep and cold.
We do not believe in foul play or a crime in this case. This is a tragic event and we will still stay tuned and focused for any news about Linus Westermann’s whereabouts. It is suggested that the reward should be deposited with SAR DOGS NEPAL and the search poster should be clear about that the reward will be paid for finding Linus dead or alive.
SAR DOGS NEPAL is still in contact with the locals of Manang and encouraged them to continue searching. If any information regarding Linus will turn up, we will inform his relatives and the German Embassy in Kathmandu.
Karna Bahadur Dura
SAR DOGS NEPAL (NFP)