Dr. Chakra Raj Pandey, left, medical director at Grande International Hospital, checked on Liang Sheng-Yueh on Thursday. Mr. Liang and his girlfriend, Liu Chen Chi, were lost for over a month. She died three days before rescuers found them. CreditNarendra Shrestha/European Pressphoto Agency
KATHMANDU, Nepal — The rescue team had nearly given up when it spotted distant figures on a ledge.
Over the course of 47 days, since two young Taiwanese trekkers wandered off the trail in a snowstorm, the searchers had tried almost everything: aerial surveys by helicopter, bushwhacking through deep forest, trying to follow the movements of vultures.
The father of Liang Sheng-Yueh, one of the missing students, had even consulted an astrologer. But they found nothing.
Alerted by a fellow searcher who saw what he assumed were two bodies on the ledge, the leader of the rescue team, Madhab Basnet, carefully made his way to the site, using a handmade ladder the rescuers had quickly fashioned. When he reached the ledge, he was shocked when one of the two, an emaciated and badly weakened young man, spoke to him.
He said that his girlfriend, Liu Chen Chi, 19, had died three days before.
“He said his girlfriend was in a lot of pain and grief,” Mr. Basnet said. “He said he ate salt and water and that’s how he survived.”
Every trekking season in Nepal produces tales of physical endurance and heartbreak. They are rarely as extreme, though, as that of Mr. Liang, who was released from the hospital on Monday. He arrived having dropped to 84 pounds from 150 pounds, his hair infested with lice and the flesh of one foot being eaten by maggots. Doctors said he most likely survived because he was able to replenish the salt in his body and drink melted snow.
It was not immediately clear where he got the salt, but Mr. Liang was an experienced climber who might have carried an extra supply in case of such a disaster.
Ms. Liu appeared to have died of starvation, said Dr. Mani Maharjan, who performed an autopsy.
Dr. Chakra Raj Pandey, the medical director at Grande International Hospital, said Mr. Liang at one point turned to him with a strange request.
“He asked me to provide him with a book that had maps,” Dr. Pandey said. “It appeared to me that he wanted to look at a map and recall his trekking journey and probably find out where the journey went wrong.”
The two hikers, both students at National Dong Hwa University in Taiwan, arrived in Nepal for their trek in February and were last seen on March 9.
After becoming disoriented in a snowstorm, they tried to follow the path of a river, in hopes that it would lead them to a settlement, Mr. Liang told his rescuers and local news media immediately after the rescue. Since then, he has declined all interview requests at the behest of the Taiwanese government.
Their parents, alarmed not to have heard from them, hired a search party on March 26. The team set off the next day and continued to search for nearly two weeks. When that failed, a second search began.
The lost trekkers were first spotted by Dawa Tamang, 55, a farmer who was helping the rescue effort. “I went by using a machete in the jungle,” he said. “I went by the side of the river. It was risky for me to go through. I might have lost my life as well.”
But then he spied the two figures on the ledge.
“I didn’t touch them,” Mr. Tamang said. “I came back and went to call my friends because I was told not to touch the bodies. I just saw them and then came back.”
They built a ladder out of a dead tree, expecting to retrieve the bodies. That is when Mr. Basnet descended to the ledge and, to his surprise, found Mr. Liang alive but too weak to stand. They fed him noodles hoping to build up his strength.
“We were shocked and afraid,” Mr. Basnet said. “We were thinking he was dead.”
They carried Mr. Liang to safety, while the young woman’s body was airlifted from the ledge.
Over six days in the hospital, Mr. Liang gained 13 pounds, the doctor said.
“I feel relaxed now, but can’t recall the last 47 days,” he told a reporter from The Himalayan Times.
He celebrated his 21st birthday in the company of journalists, telling them that he had survived only thanks to the prayers of others.
“If you look at his eyes and his face, you can see that he is excited about a new life,” Dr. Pandey said. “This is called rebirth. But the happiness of rebirth is mixed with the loss of his girlfriend and the tragedy of staying in the mountains and enduring so much pain.”
Ellen Barry contributed reporting from New Delhi.