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 SummitClimb Everest 2005: The report from the heart of the Avalanche!


Summitclimb Everest Lhotse expedition 2005

Bring Durga down the icefall

 

Dear EverestNews.com, Report on Camp 1 Avalanche, 4 may 2005, 5:30 am.  Report dated 5 May, 2005, 4:00 pm, Everest Basecamp. Statement from SummitClimb Llothse expedition member Pierre Bourdeau, from Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

 

On 3 May, Durga Tamang and I walked from 5300 metre high basecamp to camp 1 at 5950 metres. We left basecamp at 6:45 am and walked through the Khumbu Icefall, arriving at camp 1 at 11:00 am. The purpose of our trip was to gain acclimatization and to carry supplies and materials up to camp 1. The weather was very clear and sunny with no wind, the temperature was around 15-20 degrees centigrade.

 

Camp 1 was spread over an area of 1/2 kilometre by 1/4 kilometre. It is located in the bottom of a flattish valley, with rolling terrain on hard packed snow and ice. There were many camps; 10 to 20, spread out over a large area. The "valley" is the western cwm. At the head of the valley (east) is the Lhotse face, about 10-15 kilometres distant. At the mouth of the valley (west) is the Khumbu ice fall, about 1 kilometre from camp 1. The south valley wall is Mount Nuptse, a very high and imposing 7800 metre peak. The North valley is the West Shoulder of Everest at around 7600 metres high, a very steep rocky wall, with hanging glaciers and seracs, and snowfields.

 

Camp 1 is a high place and seems kind of sterile with all of that snow, ice, and rock. It feels unfriendly to humans. Our camp 1 consisted of 7 tents lined up and tied together in a line from North to South. Durga and I chose to sleep in adjoining tents (the third and fourth ones in the line from north to south) because we would each have more room to spread out all of our equipment.

 

The evening of May 3, as we cooked our dinner and drank our tea, I saw a very beautiful sunset over Pumori and Cho Oyu, with golden light striking the Lhotse face. It was a very magnificent twilight, with no wind and peaceful silence. I felt relaxed and at peace in this beautiful quiet and warm evening.

 

That night, I awoke 2 or 3 times with a slight headache. Each time, I drank a few sips of water, and fell back to sleep. The weather remained calm and the temperature cooled during the night.

 

At around 5:30 am, I was awakened by the sound of thunder from very high above me on the west shoulder of Everest, probably from near the top of the shoulder. Then, I felt the ground beneath me shaking and rumbling as if we were in an earthquake. I thought to myself "MERDE, I think an avalanche is coming!". I thought the avalanche would miss me, the thought never occurred to me that I would be struck by it, as camp 1 seemed so large and safe.

 

I was in my sleeping bag laying down on my back with the hood pulled over my face, so I was in total darkness. Then I heard a loud bang just above my face as a large piece of avalanche debris, perhaps the size of a football, tore off the top of the tent.

 

I realized I was inside the avalanche, and then I felt a sharp hammer blow to my forehead, just above my right eye, and I thought I was finished. Instinctively I rolled into a ball and covered my head with my hands. Everything went black, and there was a giant roaring like I was stuck inside of a huge wave breaking on some rocky shoreline. I felt my self being pounded and tumbled by debris as the avalanche crushed me like a pulp.

 

Wreckage at camp 1, showing the tent that was drug over, and which Durga and Pierre spent their first few hours in after the avalanche

 

I was still in my sleeping bag, now lying on my stomach, and I felt myself being pummeled by so many pieces of debris. I felt like I was being hit by 1000 punches. As I was being pounded, I realized I was still alive, but I was sure that the next big piece of debris that hit me would surely kill me.

 

Then the pounding stopped, and there was a sudden eerie silence. I thought I was buried deep under the snow, and I thought to myself: "Now I will surely suffocate to death". Still curled up with my head down in fear, gingerly, I reached my hand out of the top of my sleeping bag, and then stretched out my arm, to see how much snow was on top of me, and I realized that by some miracle, I was not buried.

 

At the same time, I heard Durga shouting "Pierre, Pierre". I stuck my head out of my sleeping bag and tried to see Durga. I was inside a total white-out snow-blizzard, and I could see nothing but rapidly falling thick white snow. The snow was falling straight down and sifting down around me, but there was no wind, it was totally calm as the snow settled. Durga continued to shout my name, and I realized that he was far away from me, and I was mystified, because only a few seconds before he had been only 2 metres from me in the next tent. Now, it seemed he must be 50 metres away.

 

It probably took about 30 seconds for the snow to settle. As I lay there, it seemed like it took an eternity. I looked around me while the snow fell, and I discovered that I was no longer inside my tent. It suddenly occurred to me that I had been thrown from my tent, whereas when I first heard Durga calling my name, I assumed he had been tossed away from his tent. Now I knew that while felt like I was being hit by 1000 punches, the avalanche must have drug me out of my tent and across camp 1.

 

The snow finally settled, and in the distance I saw Durga kneeling with his hands at his side, shouting my name, and looking around, trying to see me. He was kneeling in the wreckage of what used to be his tent. This sighting confirmed that I was now 100 metres away from the previous site of our camp 1. I still found it hard to believe I had been ejected from the tent and thrown this far.

 

Durga was kneeling in what used to be a sturdy brand new Ozark 4 season mountain tent, and was now a pile of yellow nylon about 4 centimetres high with broken poles sticking out of it. I looked around, and strewn haphazardly all over camp 1 were pieces of clothing, food, climbing equipment, stoves, mattresses, and all the contents of the camp spread out all over the snow.

 

I looked down at myself and saw that I was already halfway out of my sleeping bag, so I slid out the rest of the way, and then tried to stand up. My sleeping bag was lying on the ground filled with snow, so I shook it out and started to walk back to where Durga was kneeling, dragging my sleeping bag. I was in my underwear and socks. It was 5h30 in the morning, the sun was not yet up, but there was no wind. My right foot was painful but I seemed to be able to walk.

 

As I walked toward Durga, I watched him kneeling there, calling my name and scanning the camp for me. For some reason he never looked toward me, perhaps not believing I could have been thrown so far from the tent in such an unexpected direction.

 

When I was 5 metres away, he finally recognized me and exclaimed his surprise and seemed reassured.

 

I was standing there in my underwear and socks, covered in snow. I started to freeze. I found a piece of a tent, layed it beside Durga, threw my sleeping bag on top of it, and crawled inside. I was so cold, I was shaking like a leaf, and my teeth were chattering.

 

After about 15 minutes, a member of another expedition arrived. His camp had amazingly not been touched. He looked like he was in shock when he saw us in our pitiful condition. He mumbled something, apparently not speaking much English, and ran away immediately. In 15 more minutes, he came back with two other people, one of whom was a doctor who spoke English.

 

We immediately begged the doctor to call basecamp on his walkie-talkie radio, because ours was nowhere to be found, apparently having been blown away in the avalanche. He found a tent from another expedition not too badly damaged, but not connected to its guylines. He drug the tent over, found some mattresses, and helped Durga and me inside, to try to stay warmer. Our sleeping bags were covered with a fine layer of powder snow inside and out, so it was almost futile. We lay in our sleeping bags and shivered for hours. We were so cold we could not find the energy to speak.

 

The people that had been helping us left, and we never saw them again.

 

Maybe around 9:00 am, the sun started to hit us, and we began to warm up. 4 sherpas arrived from somewhere. They spoke to Durga, and then went around the camp picking up our clothing, boots, and climbing equipment. Durga could not move, he pointed at his back, and stayed in the sleeping bag, where he could stay warm. I was able to dress myself with clothing found by the Sherpas.

 

Durg in the basecamp hospital immediately after being stretchered-sledded down to basecamp.

 

I stood up, put on my boots, and walked around the camp. What I saw looked like the aftermath of a bomb blast or some kind of high-altitude rubbish dump, with wrecked tents and food and clothing and equipment spread across what seemed to be the entire valley.

 

A group of westerners arrived. They had a radio and called basecamp and began to organize a rescue. They spoke to Durga and tried to assess his injuries. They told us a lot of people were coming up from basecamp and down from camp 2 to help us.

 

As I was walking around the camp, 200 metres away, I saw a group of guys from New York, who were on our climbing permit, but not part of our climbing team. They were sitting and walking around a group of totally smashed tents from another expedition. They only had one tent, so apparently they had put theirs up next to another group’s tents. Everything over there was totally

smashed too.

 

Nice people kept coming up to me, and asking me if I needed help, offering me tea and food. They were very helpful. A doctor arrived and checked Durga, and said he needed to be carried out on a stretcher. I had a badly bruised foot and hand, and bruises all over my body, but seemed to be able to function, sort of.

 

Sherpas from our expedition began to arrive. Lakpa Kongle Sherpa was first, and he helped me find my missing crampons, and gave me more food and tea.

 

The rescuers made Durga a priority, and carried and slid in a kind of stretcher-sled with a forceful and large rescue team made up of many Sherpas and climbers from many expeditions. I don’t think his back is broken because they dropped and jostled him so many times during the rescue and he can still move around in his hospital bed and he can wigglke his fingers and toes, no problem.

 

Kripa bindu Jason Barilla, wearing his helmet with the back smashed off of it

 

I felt good enough to go down, and began to descend with Lakpa Kongle Sherpa, following the New York guys on our permit. We were all going down in a kind of big group with a lot of Sherpas.

 

It was hard to descend and I walked very slowly, because of the pain in my foot. Lakpa Kongle Sherpa helped me the whole way, like I was some kind of old lady.

 

I began to see some of the leaders of our expedition, like Shane, Max, Mark, Jason, and others. I also saw our Sherpas like Shera, Galu, Pemba, Tenji, Lakpa Garmu, Phuri, and others. For me, it felt like I was fleeing a burning building, and these familiar firemen were running in to try and put out the fire as I ran away.

 

After about four hours of walking down (it normally takes an hour or two), I stepped off of the ice in basecamp, just after Durga was slid off in his stretcher, and was escorted by other members of my expedition to the basecamp health clinic. The doctors looked me over and said that I should have an x-ray. The nearest x-ray machine is in Kathmandu, so I plan to fly there tomorrow on a helicopter from basecamp, with Durga, who also needs x-rays, and the guys from New York, who have a variety of injuries and need

x-rays too.

 

Kripa bindu Jason Barilla showing his face immediately after the avalanche

 

I wish to thank all of those kind and caring people who rescued and helped us through this horrible day. I think I might not be alive without them.

 

Note: Its amazing these people are alive, and especially that they are not more seriously injured. We are deeply grateful to all of those who helped. What wonderful people we are blessed with in sharing our climb of Mt. Lhotse and Everest. Thank you very much, from all of us at SummitClimb.com

Dispatches

Below please find the team rosters for the Everest and Lhotse expeditions and the Everest basecamp trek.

 

FAMILY NAME, First Name, country of origin,  Trip Name, leader

 

EVEREST-NEPAL-EXPEDITION

 

MR. CLARKE, Clay, USA, Everest

MR. COSTER, Arnold, Netherlands, Everest, leader

MR. FRANKELIUS, Johan, Sweden, Everest

MR. MAZUR, Daniel, England, and USA, Everest, leader

MR. O'BRIEN (CHRIS), USA, Everest

MR. O'BRIEN (MIKE), USA, Everest

MR. VOIGT, Jens, Germany, Everest

 

LHOTSE-NEPAL-EXPEDITION

 

MR. BACH, James Anugata, USA, Lhotse

MR. BARILLA, Jason, Kripabindu, USA, Lhotse

MR. BARLOW, George, USA, Lhotse

MR. BOURDEAU, Pierre, Canada, Lhotse

MR. BROILI, Ben, USA, Lhotse

MR. EDMONDS, Shane, USA, Lhotse, leader

MR. FALAHEY, Blair, Australia, Lhotse

MR. GARCIA, Joao, Portugal, Lhotse

MR. GAUTHIER, Jowan, Lhotse

MR. HAGGE, Malte, Australia, Lhotse

MR. KAUSCH, Max, Argentina, Lhotse, leader

MR. MAZUR, Daniel, England and USA, Lhotse, leader

MR. MERWIN, Mark, USA, Lhotse, leader

MR. MEYRING, Gary, USA, Lhotse

MR. SANTOS, Helder, Portugal, Lhotse

MR. THOMAS (JASON), USA, Lhotse, leader

MR. THOMAS (WILLIAM), USA, Lhotse

MR. THURLEY, Kay, Germany, Lhotse, leader

MR. WIGDERSON, Eyal, Israel, Lhotse, leader

 

EVEREST-NEPAL-BASECAMP-TREK

 

MR. AMBROSIUS, Kelly, USA, Basecamp Trek

MS. CARDINAL, France, Canada, Basecamp Trek

MR. DELISANTI, Rip, USA, Basecamp Trek

MR. EMERY, Tom, USA, Basecamp Trek

MS. MOORE, Melissa, South Africa, Basecamp Trek

MS. NEORR, Karen, USA, Basecamp Trek

MS. OLSEN, Colleen, USA, Basecamp Trek

MS. ROBINSON, Jenni, USA, Basecamp Trek

MS. ROTHENBERG, Maja, Germany, Basecamp Trek

MR. SCHAEFFER, Kelly, USA, Basecamp Trek

MR. STROHMAYER, Paul, USA, Basecamp Trek

MS. TE HENNEPE, Elselien, Netherlands, Basecamp trek, leader

MR. TONOZZI, Pat, USA, Basecamp Trek

Dispatches

 

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