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Apr 252017
 
Kami at 2015 Lhotse Puja

We enter the last week of April in a somewhat somber mood. Teams on both sides are spread from base camps up to the low and mid high camps working on their acclimatization programs but fighting high winds. The season continues to be “normal”.

Remembering

April brings two days where the Everest community pauses to remember.

Everest-2014-AvalancheOn April 18th, 2014, 16 sherpas were killed in the single most deadly incident in Everest’s history up to that time. The deaths came when a well-known ice serac hanging off the West Shoulder of Everest released at 6:30am just as droves of sherpas were carrying loads into the Western Cwm from Everest Base Camp.

They were delayed after a ladder crossing a crevasse was just repaired, but they were waiting underneath the hazard. When ice released from the hanging serac it was large, fast and deadly, they never had a chance. 13 bodies were recovered, multiple sherpas were rescued but three remain buried in the deep crevasses of the Khumbu Icefall. You can read about the tragedy and subsequent events that brought an early end to the 2014 season in my season wrap-up.

Two years today, April 25th, 2015, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake occurred in Nepal taking 9,000 lives, including 18 at Everest Base Camp.  Jim Davidson was at Camp 1 then. Today he made this this post from Everest Base Camp where he has returned to attempt the summit again:

Exactly two years ago today, at 11:56 am on April 25, 2015, a massive earthquake slammed into the Himalayas. At Everest basecamp 22 people lost their lives due to a rock avalanche that came from the high ridge on the left of this photo. Across Nepal nearly 9,000 people perished. To honor and remember those lost, today at11:56 am at basecamp I burned incense here on our stone chorten, tossed sacred rice towards the prayer flags, and said prayers in English and Nepali. Om mani padme hum.

At Camp 2

I was moving towards Camp 2 when the quake hit. I clearly remember being in a whiteout of low clouds when I heard an avalanche to my right off Nuptse, then seconds later another avalanche to my left off the West shoulder of Everest. Suddenly, I felt the ground drop a couple of inches and seconds later another drop. Instantly I knew it was an earthquake and my thoughts went to the scale of the event.

Our Base Camp after the earthquake

Our Base Camp after the earthquake

When we reached Camp 2, the radio was alive with chatter. The first reports were that Base Camp had been “devastated”. When we heard that the quake had occurred near Kathmandu, 100 miles away, we knew it was a massive quake of apocalyptic scale. I gave my satellite phone to the Sherpas to try and call their families but the networks were down throughout the Khumbu.

I sat in our dining tent listening to the radio activity. Western Guides and Sherpas bravely entered the Icefall to inspect the route.

I knew it was dangerous when one said “Another aftershock, time to get out of here.” Efforts to inspect the damage from both ends of the Icefall were halted as the aftershocks became frequent and strong. 200 people, mostly Sherpas, were evacuated a couple days later from the Western Cwm.

This is video I took while flying from the Cwm back to base camp. You see how deep the crevasses are as well as the center of base camp destroyed.

The real tragedy on Everest occurred at base camp when the quake triggered an avalanche off the ridge between Pumori and Lintgren. It sped towards EBC with a velocity estimated at over 200 mph picking up boulders along the way. These became projectiles as the wave hit base camp, taking 18 lives that day. Marisa Eve Girawong, 28, our base camp Doctor was killed when she was picked up by the winds and thrown into the rocks.

The carnage and destruction throughout Nepal was astounding. Many villages have not recovered, two years later. Much has been written about the relief efforts and still, much remains to be done. If you would like to help, my suggestion is to donate to the Dzi Foundation. They have worked in Nepal for years, are ethical and responsible. They employ many Nepalis in their work in the most remote villages.

Sadly, these two events have defined much of what is written about Everest today. But it is not the mountain, it are the people of Nepal that remain resilient. In my Everest 2015 season summary I titled “Summit’s Don’t Matter“, I cover the tragedy.

Fixed Line Progress

The Sherpas and Tibetan Rope Fixers have made outstanding progress in getting the fixed rope set. On the south it is to the South Col and to 8300 meters, the High Camp (C3) on the north. Work has stopped for a couple of days due to high winds.

This is excellent as it opens to door for all teams to fully acclimatize on their own schedules. Hopefully this will address some of the crowding concerns on both sides this busy season.

Yak Attack (part 2)

We have another disturbing : 😛 report of yaks attacking climbers! Last week I noted Andy Anderson‘s report of a run in as he was returning to base camp. Well we have another incident to report. George Kashouh’s posted a flock of yaks overran their camp, spearing a tent. One climbers narrowly missed becoming  lunch for the herd!

Yesterday while attempting to recover in my tent, we were violently attacked by an angry herd of yaks! One of my anchor points was destroyed but I’m ok. Ricky unfortunately had it worse – a horn punched through his tent. Aside from that I’m feeling much better. Did ice climbing today. Tomorrow we climb to 23k!

Khumbu Icefall Ladders

The black dog often seen at Crampon Point and higher

Everest Going to the Dogs

Speaking of pets (yeah, I think I could have a yak as a pet  😯 ) Dogs are quite common at base camp. I have even seen them go as far as Camp 2 on the south side. They cross the ladders with 4 Paw Drive and sometimes will sleep in the tent with their adopted master.

 

Everest Dog on ladder. courtesy of Bill Burke

Everest Dog on ladder. courtesy of Bill Burke

Adrian Ballinger on the North has befriended a Tibetan Mastiff puppy and seems keen to bring him/her home. I’m pretty sure it could fit in his carry on bag! He posted:

My favorite hashtag of the trip so far…#bringthepuppyhome

Dog on North Everest. courtesy of Adrian Balimger

Dog on North Everest. courtesy of Adrian Ballinger

 

High Winds Don’t stop Rotations

Both sides of Everest are experiencing strong katabatic winds but it is not stopping rotations.

Ricky Munday with Summit Climb on the north side noted:

katabatic windsIncredibly windy last night and today. I wasn’t sure we would even attempt going up North Col, but we did. Walked for 1 hour to ice where we put on crampons and harness. Then walked 30 mins in brutal wind to start of fixed lines. Very tough but I was 3rd in group. Started to slow as approached flattish point and ate and drank. 6890m. Decided to turn back to conserve energy. Only 4 of 13 pushed on the last 120m. Everyone else turned back either with me, or well below me.

Ladders

One of the challenging parts of climbing Everest are the ladders. As you know by now, the Icefall Doctors and Tibetan Rope Fixers (yes, that is what they are called) carry ladders on their backs and lay them across crevasses that are too deep to climb in and out of. Some of those crevasses in the Western Cwm or at the base of the North Col wall can be over 100 feet deep.

Alina Zagaytova made this observation on her Facebook account:

Icefall ladder crossing. courtesy of Alina Zagaytova

Icefall ladder crossing. courtesy of Alina Zagaytova

Traveling on Mt. Everest requires crossing many vertical and horizontal ladders. You have to clip a carabiner into each rope for safety, but the ladders are still pretty wobbly and walking across you can’t help but stare into the endless crevassed abyss below you. It helps when someone holds the rope tight as you cross, but for me personally, the little feeling of inner terror at each horizontal crossing does not go away, although it has subsided a bit as I have gotten a few days of practice going across these contraptions. Here is hoping for safe and smooth crossings for the rest of this trip! And immense gratitude to the Sherpa icefall doctors who place and maintain these ladders to enable others to climb Mt. Everest.

The protocol is to approach the ladder, or ladders as sometimes four to six ladders can be lashed together for a wide crossing, looking for the safety ropes on both sides. You want to connect the ropes to your harness. Grabbing the rope, you clip your carabiner into one and the carabiner on your jumar to the other side.

You take a look and begin to cross. Often you may hear “wait!” as someone, most likely a teammate or Sherpa, will grab both safety ropes and pull them taunt. The tight lines allow faster steps, and added peace of mind.

Occasionally someone will fall off the ladder when they lose their balance, but it is actually extremely rare. Sadly, most of the falls happen when a young Sherpa trying to go as fast as possible will not clip in  and then fall, tragically, to his death. This has happened a few time over the last several years.

Falling off ladder in Khumbu Icefall. courtesy of Bill Burke

Falling off ladder in Khumbu Icefall. courtesy of Bill Burke

Sherpa Injured

Furba Rita Sherpa, a sherpa from Arun Treks, was injured by falling ice and a subsequent slip. He was carried back to base camp and helicoptered to Kathmandu. His injures were not life threatening.

Everest 2017 continues on a normal pace. But today, my thoughts return to Nepal and all those who lost so much.

Climb On!
Alan
Memories are Everything

Comments on/from Facebook

  One Response to “Everest 2017: Climbing and Remembering”

  1.  

    Thanks Alan for remembering those two tragic days and paying your respects.