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Apr 082013

It is sad to start the week with the report of the death of Mingmar Sherpa. One of the Icefall Doctors, he is reported by AFP and the Himalayan Times to have died after falling into a crevasse between Camps 1 and 2 in the Western Cwm.

His body will be retrieved by helicopter once the weather allows. He was 45 years-old and was  from Goratapting of Solukhumbu. He lived in Dingboche with his wife and son. He had been an Icefall Doctor for nine years.

It has been a difficult season for the Doctors when the long time leader of the Icefall Doctors, Ang Nima Sherpa, died at his home in Pangboche at age 59 in January.

Camp1 near a crevasse in 2008

Camp1 near a crevasse in 2008

The fixed line and ladders have been set all the way to Camp 2 just under the Lhotse Face and is open to climbers. Currently only Sherpas are actually using the route to establish those camps as most teams are still trekking to Base Camp or climbing lesser peaks to acclimatize.

The Western Cwm is heavily crevassed around Camp 1. The Doctors regularly set ladders across them both at the top of the Khumbu Icefall and just beyond Camp 1. It is common to see three to five ladders lashed together to cross some of the widest crevasses.

The Icefall can move up to three feet a day at the steepest sections and moves slower in the Cwm proper but is still moving thus the need to reposition ladders throughout the season.

The Icefall Doctors are a small team of four to six Sherpas who are paid to establish and maintain the route from Base Camp to Camp 2 in the Western Cwm. This entails carrying heavy nylon rope, anchors, stakes or pickets and aluminum ladders into the Icefall. They work on behalf of all the teams.

It is dangerous work as they are the first to see the route each year. This is the first reported death of an Icefall Doctor during the season according to Asian Trekking founder Ang Tshering Sherpa.

Back in 2001, famous Sherpa, Babu Chiri Sherpa also died after falling into a crevasse near Camp 2. At the time he held the record for summits with 10, had spent 21 hours on the summit without supplemental oxygen, and claimed the fastest ascent at the time of 16 hours and 56 minutes.

Last year, Peak Freaks’ Namgyal Tshering Sherpa fell from a ladder into a crevasse near C1. Sherpas are known for not using the fixed lines or clipping into the safety lines on ladders.

New Route Update

ExplorersWeb has a report on Denis Urubko and Alexei Bolotov and their attempt to climb a new route on the Southwest Face. There is not a lot of new information and a bit vague because they do not know the route conditions but is a good read for those interested in their effort.

North Side Update

North side teams are preparing to cross the Nepal/China border on Wednesday. There are reports that the north is not very crowded this year. Altitude Junkies, SummitClimb and 7 Summits Club all report their members are in Kathmandu and ready to go. Adventure Peaks is climbing Island and Mera Peaks in the Khumbu area to get a jump on acclimatizing.

To get an insight into the pre-climb thoughts, Phil Crampon’s Altitude Junkies team posted a very well done video. The video is courtesy of Berta Tilmantaite, a Lithuanian filmmaker who is documenting Edita Nichols’s ascent of Everest.

Videos have become very popular for Everest climbers with the advent of GoPros. But don’t expect too many as it takes a huge amount of satellite time, a stable data connection and money to transmit them to websites.

Base Camp Update

The Khumbu remains filled with climbers and trekkers. There are only a few teams now at Base Camp but this week most of the large teams will arrive. One of those teams, Dave Hahn’s RMI team is passing the time while adjusting to their new home by doing a little treasure hunting:

We were also keeping our eyes peeled for artifacts on the ice.  Yesterday James and Seth each found crampons from 1962 (as evidenced by the 1962 Indian newspaper I found with them

Again a sad start to the season proper. There have now been 13 Sherpa deaths since 2000. My sincere condolences to his family.

Climb On!
Memories are Everything

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  14 Responses to “Everest 2013: Icefall Doctor Dies”


    My condolences to the family and friends of Mingmar Sherpa


    My deepest sympathy to the the family and village community. Having just returned from EBC a week ago, I feel like I have lost a family member.


    so sad for Mingmar Sherpa’s family – such a tragic accident.


    RIP Mingmar Sherpa my thoughts and prayers are with his family 🙁


    It sounds a little like the start of last year, lets hope there are no more similarities. I can see that being fast is important to the Ice Doctors but being safe must rate high in the chart tables too.As the team is a mixture of Sherpas from various expeditions who have to work together I suppose they are hoping the same group will be selected again next year so harmony will be a factor. I suppose back in their villages there will be a little infighting going on. Do you think they practise during the off season?Who chooses the team and how do they select it ? In conclusion I would like to say how sad I am for the families and wonder if there is any sort of insurance for them in their loss. Cheers Kate


      Hi Kate … let me answer some of your queries … the Ice doctors are selected by the SPCC, they are Sherpa’s from the Khumbu region. They are a team of six, but some free lancers get added on depending on the expedition traffic on Everest. They are a tight bunch; they do this dangerous job to earn money to support their families. Off season they look after their cattle and small farms. Some like Nima Sherpa from near Namche also work as handy men … Nima repairs satellite dishes and computers.
      They are God fearing simple Buddhists who risk their lives on Everest for a mere USD 3500, In my opinion they are the true unsung heroes of Everest .


    Hi Alan,

    Thanks for the update. Really Sad news….The only time I saw Sherpas really clip into the lines was when there was a ladder crossing. Clipping and unclipping from those lines takes a lot more time and bending down to do it…. When we first went into the icefall I was shocked to see a lot of the porters carrying loads in nothing more than running shoes and not clipping in…..How many times did we go through the ice fall? maybe 8 times the whole trip?….I remember decending the icefall for the last time and I was so tired and sick of clipping in and out of of the fixed ropes, I thought to myself. “now I can see why some sherpas, who probably go through the icefall 10 times more than us, don’t feel like clipping in”…..

    Zachary Zaitzeff


    So sad to read this news. Without the hard work of the Ice Fall doctors the route to the summit would remain closed. These guys are the real heroes of Everest.


    Learn about the British history on Mount Everest at Mount Everest The British Story.


    Alan, do you have any insight on why they are known for not using the fixed lines and/or clipping in?


      Laurie, my opinion and observations is that being an Everest Sherpa is very competitive – it means unheard of money for their families in a poor country like Nepal. I have seen Sherpas not clip into lines on the ladders, not wear crampons, etc. all in the name of being fast.

      Operators will discourage this behavior but it is common to see a “Sherpa Train” coming through the Cwm or Icefall almost running. When they get back to camp, there is a source of pride as to how fast they made the carry to a high camp.

      To change some of this will require members and operators to hire only Sherpas who have proven they are safe, not the fastest or strongest.


      overconfidence and hurry laurie.


    Sad to hear, hope it’s the last !


    Not a good start to the season.


    Wow! Sorry to hear that. So early in the season.