As climbers were leaving Kathmandu for the flight to Lukla, no the worse possible news came from Everest Base Camp (EBC) – one Sherpa had died and another seriously hurt in a fall. These tragic events, while not unprecedented have set a tone of concern across the teams.
Teams went through the logistics of moving from Kathmandu to Lukla to begin their trek. The usual delays occurred with bad weather in Kathmandu, low clouds in Lukla forcing a few teams to take helicopters instead of fixed winged planes but everyone seemed to have made it without incident. A few are still in transit.
The Nepal Ministry of Tourism held climber briefings, as promised, giving a stern warning about trash, and fights. This was followed by a photo op with the teams and smiles all around.
Interspersed with the updates were comments about down bridges, slow Internet, wet heavy snowfall but everyone seems to be on schedule.
The big news for many teams was that the route in the Khumbu Icefall was in and Sherpas had already climbed as far as Camp 2 in the Western Cwm. Eric Simonson, IMG, posted a steady flow of updates keeping us informed of the progress up high:
IMG leader Ang Jangbu reports from Everest BC that five IMG sherpas made it to Camps 1 and 2 today and managed to claim the campsites that we wanted. Sounds like the Icefall route is looking reasonable. The rest of the IMG sherpas have all reported to BC now, and the sherpa team will be doing their Base Camp puja soon.
Camp 1 space is actually somewhat limited by Everest’s West Shoulder to the north and the long ridge between Lhotse and Nuptse to the south. If you get too close to either, you risk avalanches or deep crevasses. Camp 2 is perched at the base of the Lhotse Face on a rocky area. Again, the space is somewhat limited to areas not in the path of potential avalanches, crevasses and unstable areas high up in the Cwm.
The teams for RMI and the IMG’s Hybrid arrived at EBC on today or Saturday, April 6. This next week will see a massive influx of many of the teams arriving at base camp. Those climbing from Tibet are at least a week away from arriving at their base camp aka Chinese Base Camp (CBC).
The bottom line is everything appears to be on schedule with no major issues expressed at the moment.
Mid week came two reports of deep concern. First, one of the Icefall Doctors, name still unknown, fell into a crevasse near Camp 1 and broke his leg. He was carried back down to EBC and helicoptered to Kathmandu where it was reported he was recovering.
The same day, Tim Ripple, owner of Canadian guide service Peak Freaks, reported the death of one of his Sherpa team, Mingma Tenzing. Tim reported that Mingma was not feeling well and was treated by the doctors at Himalayan Rescue Clinic. They had him evacuated to Kathmandu where he died at the hospital from apparent pulmonary edema. You can read my full report here.
While news of this type is tragic and unsettling, it is not uncommon to have such incidents this early in the season. In 2012, two Sherpas died in accidents early in the season. According to the Himalayan Database, of the 234 total deaths on all Everest routes, 157 were westerners and 77 Sherpa, and of those, 53 died during route fixing.
The Sherpa are the engine that keeps Everest running and sometimes they pay a huge price. There is insurance to cover the Sherpas that goes to their family in case of death. Many operators will also financially take care of the family.
Melissa Arnot and Dave Morton started a non-profit, The Juniper Fund, a couple of years ago to assist the families of Sherpa who died on the job. She is at Everest this year reportedly attempting to climb for both sides in a single season.
Trekking to EBC
Willie Benegas gave a nice summary of what almost every team goes through
Finally after weeks of preparations, shopping, packing and countless hours of packing. A 48hours flight across the world and many days of repacking everything and more shopping with many trips to the airport to received the members. A 4 am wake up call, more packing with some mate in between and a quick transfer to the local airport for our flight to Lukla. For first time in many years that the whole process at the airport was smooth and fast process. Less than a hour later after we arrived at the airport is that we found our self with all the luggage on the flight to Lukla. A rather bumpy-flight and an ever bumpy landing to us to Lukla, the proper start of Everest 2014! After all this is that finally the first day of resting! Every year I look fwd to Namche, the Sherpa Land Hotel, the Illy cafe and all of my friends. The team Is doing great and everyone enjoyed the rest day. Tomorrow we will hike to Riverndale Lodge and enjoy the first views of Mt Everest
The Adventure Global team found a surprise on the trek.
We left Rivendell yesterday morning in beautiful weather. It was a huge surprise seeing the bridge at the bottom of Debouche completely destroyed. We assume it was washed away by a flash flood this last monsoon period.
In fact it was destroyed from rain in late August 2013.
As climbers make the trek, they become quite introspective as 18 year-old Alex Staniforth does in his recent post:
Rather than worrying about the uncontrollables, I feel like I’m keeping much better mental control and dealing with what environment each day brings, whether it’s a 6 hour walk or 30 min stroll then returning to the teahouse and killing time drinking tea and eating biscuits. The key to success is staying mentally positive and taking care of myself; I feel like we’re off to a really good start.
Trying not to become too fixated on the summit or the suffering that lays ahead, nor comparing myself to the very strong mountaineers around me. I can only do my best- theres probably much more in this mind and body than I realise. Rather than wondering if it’s enough I’m going to find out soon enough.
It’s a small world up there as climbers who perhaps have known one another via email or websites finally meet face to face. Again, Alex posts:
At the lodge we bumped into my buddy Jeff Smith who’s part of the Himex team. Jeff has been a great friend and mentor to me recently. I have a huge respect for his enthusiasm and positivity. It was great to meet at last. Like Ellis, the Irish Seven Summits team and my other friends on Everest this season, we’re different in many ways but all have the same ambition in common. Its great to be sharing and experiencing this journey together- we felt like we already knew each other having only ever spoken online!
Speaking of Jeff Smith, whom I met on Manaslu last year, he made some nice observations:
Just arrived at Pheroche and got some wifi, so just wanted to do a quick update. Pheroche is 4200m high, and is on the way to Base Camp, which is another four days trek away. 4200m is higher than most mountains in the Alps, and luckily I am not suffering with any altitude problems. On the way here I bumped into my Sherpa Nima Tenzing from my Manaslu trip, and it was great to see him again, and I hope he is with me on Everest.
The views on the trek into BC have been stunning, and I’ve been stopping in awe constantly, this truly is a beautiful part of the world. I am enjoying this part of the trip as much as possible, as I know once we reach BC it gets tough, but I’m trying to stay calm and enjoy the walk in. I am just off for a shower, which will be my first in five days, and my last for two months, so wet wipes here I come! Thanks again for everyone’s support, I hope you guys are enjoying being a part of my journey, it will get a bit more exciting soon, Blue Skies.
And Ellis Stewart made this simple, yet meaningful update along with a few good pictures:
What an amazing first week. I am truly in heaven!
Sounds like everyone is having a great time.
Everest from Tibet
72 year-old Bill Burke arrived in Kathmandu for his north side climb. He reports they expect to cross the boarder at Zangmu on April 10. Also reporting in for the north is Mathew with the Maltese team who told me:
The latest information we have is that every team has been assigned dates to avoid long queues since they will be checking all the luggages. We are scheduled to cross on the 10th as well.
The previous reports of climbers being denied entry Visas into Tibet have not proved to be widespread but strangely limited to only one team.
Base Camp Improvements
Again thanks to Eric Simonson, IMG for providing an update on communications at Everest Base Camp:
At Everest BC, the sherpas now have our VHF base station and antennas set up, so Base Camp can now communicate by radio to our teams both up the mountain and down the valley. For internet, we have our Bgan internet terminal ready to go if necessary but are hoping that the new wireless data system at EBC works well. New this year, this is operated by Mercantile, a Nepal telecom, and IMG has subscribed to this service.
If this works consistently, it will be less expensive than the Bgan, and easier than trying to use the limited bandwidth of the mobile network at Gorak Shep. The big constraints for comms at BC are the perennial issues of electricity (these systems are all power hogs), atmospherics (if it is snowing, the signals are often attenuated), and bandwidth (what happens when everyone tries to log on at the same time). Only time will tell!
In previous years, many climbers used satellite modems, or Bgans, to post dispatches but this was very expensive as in US$7/MB. Surfing the web or even using Facebook turned into hundreds if not thousands of dollars. Since 2010, Ncell, the dominate mobile carrier in Nepal, provided spotty 4G coverage reaching EBC but it was not very reliable and often climbers had to walk to a remote rock pile to post updates.
Thuraya, the most reliable satellite provided for Everest now offers “unlimited” Internet for a reasonable cost when spread across many team members. But as Eric said, any communications depending on satellites has it weak points.
Finally, the Blog of the Day comes from Jim Walkley who has not even arrived in Nepal. I like his anticipation of things to come as his team is attempting Cho Oyu, Everest and Lhotse in one massive push this season.
And now it is time to mentally transition to the task that lies ahead. Climbing any 8,000m peak (26,250? or higher) is a daunting task, let alone three in succession. Our team motto is “one peak at a time.” The expression I like to use is “eat the elephant one bite at a time,” as the challenge can seem too great when viewed in its entirety, but it is ultimately achievable with a little good fortune and when taken one step at a time. Next step: arrival in Kathmandu tomorrow…
Read my interview the team here.
Everest 2104 is in full gear!
Memories are Everything