First, I want to say that this earthquake is a Nepal tragedy, not a mountaineering event. My deep, deep condolences to all of Nepal, victims, injured and homeless. No country deserves this, much less the gentle people of Nepal.
I am now at the Panorama Lodge in Namche Bazaar, safe, with most of the Madison Mountaineering team.
In recap, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal at 11:56 AM on Saturday April 25. The epicenter of the quake was at Lamjung, which is 30 miles northwest of Kathmandu and approximately 62 miles west of Everest Base Camp.
To keep this in perspective, this is the largest event in almost a century according to the USGS:
The April 25, 2015 M 7.8 Nepal earthquake occurred as the result of thrust faulting on or near the main frontal thrust between the subducting India plate and the overriding Eurasia plate to the north. At the location of this earthquake, approximately 80 km to the northwest of the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu, the India plate is converging with Eurasia at a rate of 45 mm/yr towards the north-northeast, driving the uplift of the Himalayan mountain range.
The preliminary location, size and focal mechanism of the April 25 earthquake are consistent with its occurrence on the main subduction thrust interface between the India and Eurasia plates. Although a major plate boundary with a history of large-to-great sized earthquakes, large earthquakes on the Himalayan thrust are rare in the documented historical era.
Just four events of M6 or larger have occurred within 250 km of the April 25, 2015 earthquake over the past century. One, a M 6.9 earthquake in August 1988, 240 km to the southeast of the April 25 event, caused close to 1500 fatalities. The largest, an M 8.0 event known as the 1934 Nepal-Bihar earthquake, occurred in a similar location to the 1988 event. It severely damaged Kathmandu, and is thought to have caused around 10,600 fatalities.
This post has video and pictures from the Western Cwm, Everest Base Camp Nepal (EBC) and the trek out. As always I will simply tell you what I experienced and witnessed with no agenda.
A few points in the post:
– The Chinese Tibetan Mountaineering Association (CTMA) closed Everest North April 29 for fear of after shocks.
– Another avalanche off Everest West Shoulder onto the Khumbu Icefall occurred this afternoon (April 29), further encouraging teams to leave Everest South
– The scope of death and destruction at EBC was a cross between an F5 tornado and a war zone.
– The event was unprecedented for Everest Base Camp. Teams have camped in this area for decades. The ice serac that released was triggered by the earthquake. It between Pumori and Lintgren on a saddle at 20,177 feet; EBC is 17,500 feet and also presumably off Pumori proper.
As tons of ice flew down the mountain towards EBC, it gained speed and was compressed as it hit the morane that normally protects EBC. This serac and others similar have released before including a small one I witnessed and videoed last week off Pumori and a large one in 2003 that sprayed me at EBC with a air blast but no damage.
Individuals at EBC first reported hearing and seeing an avalanche off the Lho La Pass, but then heard a larger noise to their left. They saw a rush of white snow spray, rocks and debris flying towards them. Our base camp team was in the direct line, some ran for shelter behind the puja rock alter, others hit the ground and tragically, our team Doctor and Base Camp Manager, Marisa Eve Girawong was killed. She was a gentle, kind loving spirit. To say we are devastated by her and the loss of so many, is an understatement.
Camps above and below our general area, mid EBC, were almost complete spared. Other team’s camps that were hit hardest included the Norwegians just beside us, Indian, just below us. Adventure Consultants, SummitClimb, Jagged Globe, Henry Todd, EverestER and SPCC were also destroyed.
Personal sleeping tents were flattened, large dining and cooking tents were sent tumbling. Gear was found a quarter mile away from the camps.
– The stories of “climbers stranded” in the Western Cwm are simply untrue or a matter of exaggeration. We were the highest team on Everest at Camp 2. Others were below us at Camp 1. All had sufficient food, fuel, water and shelter to survive for several days. A few individuals and one team choose to stay in the Cwm hoping the Icefall would be fixed. I cannot say what their motivation was other than the helicopter flight was expensive if you didn’t have rescue insurance.
We also hoped the Icefall would be fixed, but after the 3rd major aftershock in 24 hours it became clear the entire area was unstable and the safest decision was to get out as quickly and safely as possible thus Garrett Madison made the decision to take advantage of the weather to helicopter down to EBC as did other major commercial teams. He guaranteed the flight without waiting for rescue insurance to kick in. I have Global Rescue through the American Alpine Club and I am 99.9% sure they will cover the 2 minute flight.
We hiked back down to Camp 1 where 170 climbers and Sherpas from multiple teams gather around two makeshift landing pads in the snow. The pilots did an amazing job of touching down for 30 seconds while two people jumped on board with their climbing pack. We flew a direct line over the Khumbu Icefall to a landing pad on the rock where they again touched down for 30 seconds or less while the passengers jumped off. The pilot flew back to the Cwm. This round trip took five minutes or less.
I took the video of leaving the Cwm and flying to EBC. Note the huge crevasses near the top of the Cwm, This was the problem in climbing back down without ladders.
-Teams at Camp 2, for the second year in a row, “cached” gear instead of risking more lives by carrying it down. Teams cooperated with one another to share helicopter loads to clear gear at Camp 1.
– Almost every team, but not all, at EBC – Nepal has made the decision to abandon 2015 Everest and Lhotse climbs. There are several reasons:
1. The Icefall Doctors reed to Gorak Shep after their camp was destroyed. In spite of heroic efforts by a few commercial guides to re-establish the upper route in the Icefall, the aftershocks made it too risky. It is disappointing to the climbing community here that the Doctors did little to assist those in the Cwm.
2. There were forecasts of continued aftershocks based on the huge 7.9 level initial quake thus this was deemed an ongoing event and not over.
3. Anytime snow or ice moves, it needs time to settle. The earthquake literally moved mountains and how long it will take to be “stable” is simply unknown. Also, I had been disturbed by the warm April, there was running water in the “main streets” of EBC when we arrived in early April, normally this occurs in late May.
4. The ”supply chain” of food and fuel brought in by porters was completely disrupted thus no team could count on supplies through June 1.
5. The monsoons start usually around June 1 providing a hard stop to the season.
6. Over 19 people have reportedly lost their lives at EBC, however there were still tents to be inspected as of yesterday so this casualty count could go higher. Over 5,000 (probably 3x this amount) in Nepal. The Sherpas, cooks, porters all have higher priorities than supporting climbers.
7. By the end of April, for almost every year in the last 10, the route to the summit had been almost fixed and/or rope and anchors positioned as high as the South Col. This year, 2015, nothing had been fixed or positioned above Camp 2. It would have taken a massive human effort to fix the route and build camps for the 700 Everest/Lhotse climbers at EBC.
It was not impossible as shown in 2014 when one Chinese woman and five Sherpas climbed from Camp 2 after flying there along with several more flights with rope and anchors. The Nepal Ministry of Tourism had refused requests to do this same procedure for 2015 prior to earthquake but seems to have changed their mind today.
Bottom line, while not impossible, it will have been expensive, dangerous and difficult to get the route set this late in the season. All this said, Himex posted today they will wait and see:
Our Himex team will stay at Everest BC for the next few days and we will then decide if we will continue or not. Talking to Phurba he tells me that the Sherpas are ready to go back to BC and to assess the conditions in a few days time and will then make a collective decision. This morning when I was at the airport I had a meeting with the NMA and the Minister of MoT and he gave us permission to fly loads to C1, but only after the helicopters come free from rescue operations which we of course totally agree with.
– I spoke with many trekkers who had frightening stories of struggling to stand up, dodging rocks and otherwise grateful to have escaped.
– As I trekked out, I saw little real damage to the upper Khumbu villages.
– The revered monastery in Tengboche had extensive exterior damage. I spoke with an older monk outside and he just shook his head as I pointed to the monastery. I can only assume the damage inside is severe but I hope I’m wrong.
– As I got closer to Namche, there were a few, tiny sections of damage to the trails but all were fully passable.
– I spoke with the owner of the Panorama Lodge in Namche Bazaar Sherap Jangbu Sherpa who was born in Namche in the 1950’s. He said this was the worse earthquake he ever experienced, worse than the “big one”in 1988. His lodge had small damage and others in Namche raged from nothing to severe. There was no loss of life.
But at Thame there was large destruction as noted by Dave Morton. The damage seems to be related to soil type and time of construction with older buildings suffering the most. However, note that many building exterior walls in the Khumbu are simply rocks piled upon one another, so building face fell off but the structure remained sound. In other words, it looks worse than it is, but also, there is true destruction that has made some buildings inhabitable.
– Next year, is the year of the monk, a bad year on the Tibetan calendar thus no new buildings, marriages, etc. will begin after the new year in February. This could have an impact on the Himalayan climbing season after such bad years in 2014 and 2015.
– I stopped at Kami Sherpa’s home in Pangboche where I met his wife, mother and sister. There were a few homes damaged but this high mountain village, where Lama Geshi also lives, was spared.
Kami’s wife kept hugging me with her tiny head pressed against my stomach saying “lucky, lucky, lucky”
Yes, I agree, “lucky, lucky, lucky”.
Memories are Everything
Note:It appears comments in this recap about the Icefall Doctors and helicopter rescues have sparked a lot of comments. In a separate post, I take a deeper look at both for your consideration. You can read it at
- The New York Times has a good overview of the entire earthquake.
- A Facebook page has been created for people in Nepal to let others know they are safe.
- I am holding back in suggesting an organization to donate to as Nepal, while having wonderful people, has a very corrupt government. Also, time like this brings out very suspect “non=profit” organizations. This article is a good reminder.
- That said this from Lakpa Rita Sherpa, whom I climbed K2 with is solid:
Hello everyone, I am very overwhelmed by the outpouring support and words of encouragement from all my friends and family around the world. With very poor network in the basecamp I have not been able to respond you each and every one of you. Due to the earthquake, my village Thame has lost about 90% of their homes and we are in need of all your help and support. Many of the villages in the Khumbu region, including Thame is very difficult to get in and out of requiring days of hiking, making support harder to receive. The road to rebuilding the community will be very long from here on out.
For now, I would like to reach out to all my families and friends from around the world and ask for your support in the hopes of rebuilding Thame. I appreciate each and every one of you for taking the time to read this and doing your part to help. We are taking donations for the Thame Fund
Donate by check: (NOTE: THAME FUND)
Alpine Ascents Foundation
109 W. Mercer Street
Seattle, WA 98119
Or online at:
PLEASE NOTE: “THAME FUND” in the notes
PLEASE NOTE: “THAME FUND” in the field notes
Thanks to Altitude Pakistan of the following information:
Here is the list of victims, as per information shared by NMA, details coming from climbers and expedition leaders and deaths confirmed by other resources.
Dreamers Destination Lhotse Expedition
1. Zhenfang Ge (Expedition Leader, China), DoB: 25-07-1971
2. Yomagato Horoshi (Trekker, Japan) DoB: 10-2-1959
First Chinese Women Everest Expedition
3. Renu Fotedar (female) (Australia) DoB:22-7-1965
4. Lakpa Chhiring Sherpa (HAP, Nepal) DoB:18-4-1982
Step Up Campeign Everest
5. Shiva Kumar Shrestha (Kitchen Staff, Nepal) DoB:20-8-1989
Jagged Globe Everest Expedition
6. Daniel Paul Fredinburg (USA) DoB: 8-9-1981
Madison Mountaineering Everest and Lhotse Expedition
7. Marisa Eve Girawong, (USA) (Base Camp Doctor) DoB: 24-12-1986
Adventure Consultants Expedition
8. Dawa Tsering Sherpa (Chawrikharka, Nepal) (HAP) DoB: 31-1-1982
9. Pema Yishi Sherpa (Bung, Nepal) (HAP) DoB: 25-11-1989
10. Chhimi Dawa Sherpa (Khumjung, Nepal) (HAP) DoB: 28-8-1987
11. Pemba Sherpa (Solu, Nepal) (Kitchen Staff) DoB: 25-2-1996
12. Maila Rai (Bung, Nepal) (Kitchen Staff) DoB: 9-5-1973
Tim Mosedale Everest Expedition
13. Pasang Temba Sherpa (Kitchen Staff, Nepal)
14. Krishna Kumar Rai (Kitchen Staff, Nepal)
15. Tenzing Bhote (HAP, Nepal)
16. Vinh B Truong (Trekker, Vietnamese-American)
TET Films & Photography
17. Tom Taplin (Documentary-making, USA), Age:61
(Thanks to Bob A. Schelfhout Aubertijn for collecting, verifying and sharing the details).
All photos by Alan Arnette, all rights reserved