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,