Leslie Binns was just 12 hours and 1,650 feet from the Everest summit on May 21 when an Indian woman slipped during her descent and came barreling toward him. "All I could hear were the screams of terror as the person gained momentum," he tells the BBC. Binns, 42, was able to stop 32-year-old Sunita Hazra, who was returning from the summit, but he soon realized she was out of oxygen. That's when the British ex-soldier—awarded a medal for bravery for his work finding IEDs in Afghanistan, which left him blinded in one eye—made his decision: forgo the summit and help the woman. Handing over his spare oxygen bottle, Binns clipped Hazra to him and began descending with his Sherpa guide. They "came across another man from her team who was also in distress," and Binns "clipped the man onto himself as well," an acquaintance tells the Hindustan Times.
But when a storm hit, Binns had to abandon the man, who "kept collapsing." Binns eventually made it to his camp, where he gave Hazra his sleeping bag and used a flask of ginger tea to try to warm her frostbitten right hand before her Sherpa arrived to help her descend. At one point, Binns says he heard the male climber calling in the distance, "but I was too exhausted to go back out. I literally collapsed and fell asleep." He was later told the man had been rescued, but Binns came across his body while descending the next day. "I am immensely proud that I helped Sunita," but "I truly regret not being able to do anything more for him," Binns says of the man. "I owe my life to him," says Hazra of Binns, noting he has allowed her to "return home to see my child. What else can I say?" (This climber's wife died in his arms on Everest.)