A Somber Day at Base Camp
A line of people transports rocks to build a heli pad. There were 6 lines like this and just as many more people shovelling snow. Photo Fiona Adler
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. It was known 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 were injured.
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 within 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 Camp,
Posted by: Daryl on April 21, 2006 11:49 PM AEST
my thought are with your all. take care of yourselves and each other.
Posted by: Chris and Bridget on April 22, 2006 12:02 AM AEST
Guys, so shocked to see this news - it must be a tough time at BC at the moment for you, Mingma, Dasona and the rest of the IMG team, so thinking of you all.
Bridget and Chris
Posted by: jan laing on April 22, 2006 12:16 AM AEST
Dear Fiona and Paul
I am so sorry to hear the tragic news. It sort of puts things into perspective doesn't it?
We, back here in Australia, can only let you know that our thoughts are with you and with the families of the sherpas who were killed and injured. best wishes to everyone,
Posted by: Dad & Mary on April 22, 2006 12:41 AM AEST
We have been following the developments of this afternoon and it brings the situation to sobering reality when something like this happens. Sure, as your family we had talked of our concerns for you both, but to have this happen so close to what we felt was the security of Base Camp has brought home the reality of the situation. Be cautious,we love you both. Dad & Mary.
P.S. did you get the message that Mary is leaving here on Tuesday now, due to curfew in Kathmandu.
Posted by: Liane and the QECVI Students on April 22, 2006 01:20 AM AEST
Dear Paul and Fiona:
We were all so saddened to read your news today. Please know that we are thinking of you and the families of the Sherpas who were killed.
Your Canadian friends from QECVI
Posted by: Joseph Acero on April 22, 2006 02:03 AM AEST
Paul & Fiona-
This was an exceedingly difficult dispatch to read. Words seem inadequate right now so please just let Dasona know my family is thinking of him here and praying for ALL the climbers safety. Also, if he sees Namgel (guiding for Himalayan guides) and could pass along the same message.
Posted by: Tamara Brown (a/k/a Tam) on April 22, 2006 02:22 AM AEST
No words can express our thoughts or sadness. Know that you are all in our hearts and prayers.........
Posted by: Alan Arnette on April 22, 2006 02:42 AM AEST
Fi and Paul,This is indeed sad news. The Sherpas are the bravest on the mountains and when She takes one of them it is hard to understand. Even though this is part of the "deal" is is almost impossible to accept. Thank you (and Nick) for your sensitive and respectful approach to reporting this sad news. Climb safe. Alan
Posted by: Paul Campbell on April 22, 2006 03:06 AM AEST
Sorry to here about the accident.Please be safe, my home team will pray.Say hellow to Jim Gagne
Posted by: anne on April 22, 2006 09:43 AM AEST
my dad is over there and as i was searching for any/all information i could find i came across your site. i'm so shocked and sorry to hear this sad news. From your descriptions i can tell Sherpas must indeed be brave, courageous, great people. i know u dont know me but i just wanted to thank you for reporting.. it has brought me much comfort (well not today..) and hope to know people are well over there. please be safe and may God be wih you all.
p.s. if you happen to run into a korean man john lee...can you please say hello. thank you thank you thank you
Posted by: MC on April 22, 2006 12:01 PM AEST
In this very sad and difficult time, there is a glimmering light in Nepal. King Gyanendra has returned the power to Nepal’s people – democracy is restored in the country. Addressing the nation last evening, the King said he has handed executive powers to the people as per Article 35 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal 1990, according to Kantipur Online. The King has called the seven-party alliance to recommend the name of a consensus Prime Minister as soon as possible.
Again, my condolences to the families of these 3 fellow climbers and very courageous men. MC
Posted by: jan on April 22, 2006 01:04 PM AEST
Dear Fi and Paul, very sad news indeed, my thoughts with you and the whole Everest family. I too would like to know how I can contribute to their families. Thinking of you all.
Best wishes, jan
Posted by: Valerie & Rummy on April 22, 2006 04:05 PM AEST
As with everyone else, we are deeply saddened by the loss of 3 wonderful sherpas. They lost their lives while working so hard trying to insure that all the climbers would be safer. Our thoughts are with their families and to all others involved with Everest.
Posted by: jill carter on April 22, 2006 05:57 PM AEST
I haven't logged on for a while and was worried about there being further collapses of ice that might affect you both. It was sad to learn that three people have died. I will not be saying anything to nanna. Please be wise and cautious and safe. It is great following your story and I hope you are in better health now. Marg is arriving tomorrow and I am very much looking forward to having her stay with me . Robyn and Michael say hi but I have reminded them to send their own messages to you as well. Take care Love Aunty Jill
Posted by: Anne Marshall on April 22, 2006 06:45 PM AEST
Such devestating consequences of the icefall leave us feeling very sad and particularly for the lives lost. We send you special love at this time and thank you for the way in which you continue to illuminate so much for us in your news updates.
Posted by: Elizabeth on April 22, 2006 07:15 PM AEST
I was very sad to hear of the accident, I know you don't know me, and I'm not an Everest climber but I enjoy following the expeditions, and I can see that the Sherpas must be wonderful and very helpful people. I'm very sorry to hear about the loss of the three Sherpas. I hope there are no more accidents like this.
Posted by: Doug on April 22, 2006 11:02 PM AEST
Hey paul and fiona, i think it is wonderful that you two are climbing together. Sorry to hear about the accident, our thoughts and prayers go out to their families. If you happen to see the "Snow wall king" Jim Gagne could you please tell him Doug and Jen are thinking about him and wish him and everyone else safe travels. Thanks and take care.
Posted by: Jane Barrow on April 23, 2006 03:55 PM AEST
Dear Paul & Fiona,
Been speaking with John today and have heard the latest news. I am also now subscribed to your website which is really fantastic. Very sorry to hear of the lives lost. Please keep each other safe and focused on the job at hand. We are all thinking of you both.
Jane Barrow (Phyllis Burgess' grand-daughter)
Posted by: Judy & Max on April 23, 2006 06:29 PM AEST
Paul and Fiona what devastating news. Judy and I are both saddened and feel extremely sorry for the Lost Sherpas and their families please take care and we are thinking of you both
Judy and Max
Posted by: Barbara Hall on April 26, 2006 04:05 AM AEST
Hi to Dennis Kellner
I just got this website from Kathy and wanted to let you know I am thinking of you and keeping you in my prayers. Now that I know where to contact you I will be in touch periodically. Between the emails from Eric and the excellent reports from Tam I am up to date on all that is happening. My heart goes out to the families of those that were lost.
Stay safe and heal well. Love, Mom
Posted by: Terri Allen on April 26, 2006 04:39 AM AEST
Paul and Fiona: Am following your site as well as Bud's. All of you are constantly on my mind and I am hoping all will stay well and continue to move on up THE MOUNTAIN! I am sorry to hear about the physical problems. Hope HRA can doctor you all up and keep you going. Take care: Terri