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  Disaster on Ama Dablam: Update from the climber who was the "first guy to C3 on Ama Dablam after the recent avalanches"

The above picture is a view from camp3 to the summit form a previous year...

Picture copyrighted Phil Austin.

EverestNews.com, I was the first guy to C3 on Ama Dablam after the recent avalanches.  Some of the reporting on this has been inaccurate and I've attached a summary of what happened, as best we know.  I've held off distributing this until I had a chance to speak to Duncan Williams's family.  It's a popular mountain and so attracts interest but also I think that the opinion expressed about overcrowding or misplaced tents was just plainly wrong and caused unnecessary grief to the families.  The whole of the C3 area was destroyed.  There was nothing left of it and we couldn't find anything in our search (necessarily quick as we'd just missed an avalanche).  Please use as you feel appropriate.  Yours, Steve Gandy

My report: Duncan Williams left from Base Camp (BC) for Camp 1 (C1) on Saturday 11th Nov with Mingma Nuru Sherpa. Clive Roberts and I had both just come down from acclimatisation at Advanced Base Camp (ABC) and C1 and needed to rest. Additionally, we had limited sleeping spaces on the mountain and so it made sense to split the party in two rather than to carry up additional tentage and stoves.

Clive, Perbu and I set off for C1 on Sunday and on Tuesday Clive descended due to difficulties with a recurrent chest infection. Perbu and I continued without incident to C2.

Early on Tuesday morning, Perbu and I were woken by what sounded like an avalanche/serac fall; approximately 15mins later there was a second. It seemed to us at the time that these came from further East and not from Ama Dablam. Tim Mosedale put the time of the first of these at 0415hrs local (2230hrs GMT). A third has been reported but we did not hear it at C2.

At 0730hrs we made our scheduled call to BC and confirmed that we were ready to ascend to C3. Perbu tried to raise Mingma on the radio but got no response. We assumed that either their batteries were dead or that they were on their way up already. At 0945hrs we began our ascent to C3 but with no expectation that there had been any problem there. Our radio was switched off during the ascent to conserve batteries.

The avalanches were heard at BC. They opened a continuing radio watch and observed the slopes above C3 for movement during the morning.

At approx 1315hrs we were just below C3 when a further avalanche occurred. This was not a serac fall but a snow (blocks and powder) avalanche from above the Dablam and which was directed to its right and down the normal ascent route. We were sheltered by the shoulder of C3.

We continued up and arrived at the C3 site 10-15 mins later having left the fixed rope.

All that was left at C3 was a metal spoon to the right of the ascent route and two old ropes above some steep ground. Subsequent questioning of earlier ascentionists has shown that these were here before the avalanche.

Snow and blocks of ice weighing roughly 250-350kg covered the area. From questioning of earlier ascentionists, the area was approx 30m x 30m. The 10m nearest to the Dablam were heavily covered and indistinguishable from the slope above.

On the surface there was no evidence of C3 ever having existed. For 10-15 mins Perbu and I shouted and dug at the ground with our axes across the site to see if we could find any traces of C3 and its occupants. We found no trace and I assume that any remains were either buried too deeply to be found or were covered by blocks of ice.

Perbu and I then moved back down the route to a safer area where I radioed a mayday message to Clive at BC. We retreated down the mountain arriving at C2 shortly before last light.

A further large avalanche, observed from BC, struck C3 at approx 1630hrs.

I stayed overnight at C2 in case of the remote possibility of someone making their way down the mountain and Perbu descended to BC, arriving at 2330hrs.

On the Wednesday there were 2 recces of C3 by helicopter. There was no sign of life or of anything at the site other than avalanche debris.

On Thursday there was a recce by foot and binoculars of the Western cwm. Some debris was observed spread out at about 500m below C3.

On Friday there was a final recce by helicopter which included an expert from the Himalayan Rescue Association. His conclusion was that he did not expect survivors, that any effective search would require Sherpas who had been operating on 8000m peaks and that he recommended that the search wait until Spring.

The Pangboche sherpas had initially said on Tuesday that they wanted to mount a search of C3. They backed out of this but were reconsidering their position over the weekend following the avalanche

Earlier Update: An avalanche has wiped out camp 3 on Ama Dablam. Three western climbers and 3 Sherpa are missing, all assumed lost. A helicopter is searching but with little hope...

Adventure Peaks climber Duncan Williams, 32, of Britain and Mingma Nuru Sherpa, 35, of Solukhumbu district are along the missing.

The other two western climbers from another team are missing along with a Sherpa from that team...

Update: tourism ministry officials have now released the names of  Swedes Daniel Carlsson, 27, and Mikael Forsberg, 41 among the missing...

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