Cleaning the Mountain (updated)

It looks like the Everest season has finally ended with  a big cold slap in the face to many teams on both sides. The weather deteriorated for the few teams making a push this week so much so, some classified it as the worse ever.

Another death was reported earlier this week of a Japanese climber on the north, still no details. But another death was also mentioned and again now. Details are vague at .

Duncan Chessell told the Australian news:

“They were the worst conditions I have ever encountered by a factor of at least 10 on the summit, ” Mr Chessell said today.

“There was a fresh dump of snow and winds were howling. They were at least 30-40 knots on the summit and it was minus 26C, which is not great for humans at 8848m above sea level. “We almost called it off, but we all made it up and down safely.”

On their way up the mountain Mr Chessell’s group was asked to help a Japanese climber who had summitted on Monday. But by the time they reached him, the man was already dead.

“Also, another climber, I think from the US, or at least a US team, which was on the summit about the same time as us, died on descent and we were not able to help him on our descent,” Mr Chessell said.

By now almost everyone is at Base Camp or back in Kathmandu. This week, the Sherpas were still finishing up work by bringing everything down from the high camps.

This is literally back breaking work. In many cases they will bring double or triple loads from the North Col or C2 back to Base Camp. Think of all the supplies they brought up to support the climbs, all that has to be taken back down.

IMG notes the huge clean-up effort:

Our IMG sherpas put in a big day yesterday and all the gear is down, and everyone is safe and sound. We still have some packing chores and cleanup to do: burnable rubbish is heading for the incinerator in Namche, bottles and cans to Kathmandu for recycling, empty O2 cylinders back to the USA for refilling, human waste down to Gorak Shep for burial. The climbers have all left, and the first wave has already reached Kathmandu. Our team leaders will do the final briefing with the Ministry back in Kathmandu, and we will file for getting the garbage deposit back.

However, Summit Climb reported a disturbing item that on the north, one or more teams actually abandoned their camps above the North Col leaving tents, still standing. The only rational that they were too tired to be bothered. This is what creates the problem.

The Nepalese have a trash deposit that discourages such behavior as well as on-mountain liaison officers to monitor teams. Also, the Nepalese and the large commercial operators have done a nice job of instilling a sense of responsibility in the overall environment. Clearly, work remains to be done on the North.

The Summit Climb post gives some details on the north:

We made it down to camp 2, which was completely abandoned. All of our tents and equipment had been removed by our sherpas working busily down below. Camp 2 again looked like an enourmous car park after a car boot , completely trashed. In several instances we saw teams that had left their entire camp behind, including standing tents. I’ll have to say that some of our members were a bit astounded when they started calculating the value of some of this equipment that had been left up there because it was too difficult to carry down.

I contacted Jamie McGuiness from Project Himalaya since many of you were asking. He and two members summited. If you know Jamie, you will smile that he is one of the only people who would wait out a storm at a high camp to get a great picture!

Eric and Barry summited, no problems at all with two really competent sherpas, Kaji and Nima Guriman. Three is a crowd in tents at C2 and C3 so two pairs was tidy. Fernando had torn breathing muscles and a terrible cough – he didn’t summit.  I wanted to summit on the fine day to take lots of pictures with my NEW 5D mark ii and so waited 3 nights at North Col and 2 nights at C2 watching Wx forecasts but could see the Wx wasn’t going to be right. Duncan’s team summited in real wind… others in total whiteout…

It seems the helicopter situation at Everest it totally out of control. Well respected high-altitude Physician Dr. Peter Hackett sent me this email about my post on recent accidents. He was at Base Camp this season.

Alan- I know you want to publish accurate information, so here’s a correction. The HRA doctors at base camp did NOT suggest a rescue from Camp 2 for Phil Crampton’s member. In fact, we were very much against it. We felt it unnecessary and it set a very bad precedent. Our take was that he could have made it down through the icefall without much difficulty, and in retrospect that was correct. In addition, helicopter requests from base camp were totally out of control, many were unnecessary.
Peter Hackett and Steve Halvorson, HRA base camp doctors
See http://www.everestER for more details of all these rescues.

Note that the information he is referencing is from the Altitude Junkies’ dispatch. Thanks to EverestEr for the clarification and for all their work.

I will do an update upon more information on the reported death. If true then that would be 1 on Lhotse, and 4 on the north for 2010.

update: Finally, it would appear the search for the camera from Mallory & Irvine’s 1924 expediton remains unfound; or does it? We really we don’t know. Given the recent heavy snows, several teams who said they would look for it have reported it unlikely they would find it. And of course, there have been no public comments from most of the teams other than this from Duncan:

Mr Chessell thinks Mr Irvine may have survived a fall, but died on his way down while taking a route not often used and hoped to find his body and the missing cameras during his descent on Tuesday.

“Unfortunately, the huge dump of snow, which was not forecast and came completely out of nowhere, put a metre and a half of snow on top of everything,” he said. I know it sounds strange, but at the time I couldn’t help thinking that the mountain was acting to keep its mystery to itself.”

Climb On!


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2 thoughts on “Cleaning the Mountain (updated)

  1. Alan,

    Here is accurate information as it is from the eye witness:

    Peter & Steve (the HRA doctors) comment regarding rescue of Mike is outrageous to say the least !
    I was there with Mike every proverbial inch and minute during the descent from 8700m to C2 ! I’m not a doctor but I have a Master Degree in science and through my work I have an extensive experience and training in assessing risks. what I have observed during those agonising hours was terryfing !
    Mike acted in the same way as Peter on the North side who died on the 25 May at 8600 m, (his trauma is described on the net ), what I mean is that in one moment Mike, like Peter, would talk completely ‘normal’ and logical and then he was talking complete nonsense, refusing oxygen and tellig us that we want to poison him…..he could not stand up despite his real efforts, he was collapsing and it looked like he was loosing conciousness, For those doctors to make statement that Mike could walk through Ice Fall is unbelivable ! Alan, you walk the Ice Fall many times so you know that it is an effort for a healthy person ! When finally Mike was at C2 it was very obviout to all of us that there is something really wrong with his health so what do you do in such case ? obviously you do not take chances, specially when it involves somone health & life. One of those doctors (Peter) talk to Mike o/radio – is this enough to assess the person !??? and make statement that Mike was ok ?! As I’ve said ,there were moments when Mike talk completly logical but that does not mean he was ok ! I know Peter also talk to Mike at the hospital but so what ? by then Mike was at lower altitude recovering and his worsts symptoms/state of past 48 hrs were probably gone.

    To state that Phil’s action of calling helicopter was unnecessery is outrageous , my biggest worry however is : it is obvious those doctors are more concern with ‘setting the precedence ‘ of using helicopter ….!! (as they stated above !) shouldn’t they be concerned with a human life ? the case always is ‘if in doubt play safe’ and after all none of them was there with Mike on the mountain to assess his state , assessment o/radio in this case is radicolous !.

    I’ve climbed with Phil 2x now and being trained in safety I can categoricaly state from my own experience he is very safety oriented mountaineer and looks after members wery well.

    In summary:

    For me as a climber it is a big worry that these two doctors are more concern with the use of helicopter than with the risk to human life by sending a sick person to decent via a very well know for it’s risk Ice Fall …..!

    Phil is an excellent=safety concious mountaineer whose No 1 concern is to provide the safe climing for all his members.

    Based on what I have eye witnessed his action of calling helicopter to C2 to rescue Mike was fully justified.

    Those doctors made a sweeping statement about Mike state of health – base on…? , assessment o/radio and 48+hrs after the event at much lover altitude when the symptoms were gone..

    Alan, thanks for wonderfull web, thanks for responding to my husband’s email when I was on Everest
    all the best

  2. Thank you, Alan, for you top coverage. Yes, I did smile at the reference to Jamie. Like many others no doubt I was worried at the radio silence, your changinging references to where they were at, and then the “e” allocation yesterday, signalling dissappointment but I guess relief that they were OK. For the record I note that he had given/lent his small camera to Duncan Chessel. 5 years ago on a trip my camera broke and he insisted on lending his to me. Very typical, although excitedly wanting to get up early to go to the top of Everest for the dawn light to try the new camera probably does set a new standard…

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