Location: Everest Base Camp
Local Time: 5:30pm, Fri 21st April
Weather: Fine, 10C
Hello everyone, Fiona here,
As you may have heard, there
has been a terrible accident in the Icefall today with the result being that 3
people have lost their lives and 4 others are injured.
A Tragedy Unfolds
We woke this morning to find that a disaster was unfurling around us. For
several hours, details were very sketchy. Was was known was that several teams
of Sherpas (including ours) had left base camp at around 5:30am - some of whom
were heading for camp 1 and some to camp 2. (Most parties go through the
icefall leave early to avoid travelling through in the heat of the day when
collapses are more likely.)
With radio contact we soon
learned that a section of the icefall had collapsed this morning at 7am. The
icefall is a steep section of the Khumbu glacier where there are lots of
crevasses (which climbers use ladders to cross) and huge towers and blocks of
ice. It seems that one tower toppled, causing a domino effect by hitting
another tower and then a large wall of ice.
In the hours that followed,
our team and several others frantically tried to account for all of the people
known to be in that area. Sherpa groups that were long past the point of
collapse retreated to assist with the search and many others went up to help.
By around 10:30am, it was
confirmed that 3 Sherpas had died in the icefall crush and that some 4 others
One of the deceased Sherpas,
Pinjo, was from our team - holding a fairly senior position, but more
importantly, much loved by both the Sherpas and the Westerners. Just last
night he'd returned a chair to the dining tent after sewing it up, and was
trying to convince us that "Yabbadabbadoo" meant something or other in Sherpa
language. He leaves behind a wife and two children (aged 12 and 14). Two other
Sherpas (both of them brothers-in-law of his) left as soon as the news hit to
break the sad news to his wife.
We didn't know the other two
Sherpas who lost their lives today but the Sherpa community is very close knit
and their deaths are also being mourned by many at our camp.
Although I don't have
details, it is my understanding that all those injured were able to walk and
have all now made it down to base camp and to the very competent HRA Clinic
(Himalayan Rescue Association) here.
Building a Helicopter Pad
Once there was news of possible injured people requiring assistance, most of
us remaining at camp jumped into action to help build a helicopter pad in case
a helicopter rescue was required. At first there were only a handful of us,
but withing half and hour, we had 200 people working together to create a flat
platform. We quickly formed a couple of rock hauling lines where rocks were
passed up the line to fill in sections of the pad that were missing. Others
formed snow hauling teams, taking turns to shovel snow into bags that could be
hauled onto the pad and then crushed to form a flat, smooth surface.
The helicopter pad has not
been used today but should last for most of the season regardless (hopefully
it's not needed). The project also gave everyone a way to feel slightly useful
at a time when we were all feeling completely hopeless.
Although we all know the dangers of climbing Everest, and particularly the
dangers of the Icefall, it sure gives you a different perspective when those
dangers actually come to light in the worst possible way. Today's events had
all of us thinking about the merits of climbing and the risks involved. Many
of us brought up the fact that if it wasn't for us Westerners wanting to
climb, none of the Sherpas would have been in the Icefall today. However, some
of the Sherpas also reminded us that it is the jobs that Western climbers
provide that allow many of them to put their kids through school and build
better lives for their families. A double-edged sword I guess.
Families of the Deceased
Our hearts go out to the families and friends of the climbers lost today. A
small saving grace is that most Sherpas killed are insured so that their
families are looked after should the worst happen. (Any climbers joining
expeditions in Nepal should check that their company provides insurance for
its Sherpas.) In this case, I believe that all Sherpas involved were insured.
Nevertheless, our team is having a collection tonight as an offering of our
condolences to the families and to provide them with something extra.
From a grieving Everest Base