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Friday, May 9, 2014

Recap Day 2 - 4/19 to 4/21 - the days of uncertainty begin

I feel as if I am writing some epic about a non-climb but I think the slow buildup and tension are necessary to communicate what we all experienced on the hill.  So sit back, pour yourself a pleasurable beverage and read on....

Yesterday (4/18) left us worried.  We began the day all happy and smiles and ended it with dread.  What happened in the icefall yesterday?  We had no clue.  The rumors swirled throughout camp and nobody seemed to have a clue what happened.  My fellow climbers and I decided to go to the source.  What source?  Why who else than my dear friend John Carney.  John is one of the most upbeat guys I know.  His expedition with Himalayan Expeditions (aka Himex) in 2012 was called off due to a Sherpa's death.  Was John disheartened?  Hardly.  He decided to dedicate himself to another year and this year was the year.  John decided to climb with Alpine Ascents (AAI) this year and the reason he was our best source was because AAI were at the heart of the event.  It was John who I was worried about last night and I figured if I could find him, I would have some comfort in knowing he was OK and I knew John would know the scoop on the previous day's events.  Here is what we found out....
John Carney....great guy and eternal optimist.

  • Alpine Ascents lost 5 Sherpa during the slide.  Their loss along with the location in EBC relegated them to command central for the rescue operation.  Throughout the day, John sat with his expedition mates following the events closely.  
  • John thought the expedition was over given their situation and he said so without reservation.  Right John?  He said the loss was devastating for his team and he did not see how their remaining Sherpa nor the expedition leaders would be willing to risk any more lives.
  • Despite the setback, John remained upbeat and realistic about the situation.  I could not believe his level-headed nature given his past cancelled expedition.  He impressed me to no end just by his calmness and demeanor.  I learned from this observation that if I'm in a bind, I wouldn't mind being in a bind with John.  What a cool customer!
  • We learned that 16 Sherpa were confirmed dead and 3-5 Sherpa were evacuated via helicopter to either Pheriche or KTM.  In all cases, the surviving Sherpa were going to live but we had no idea the extent of their injuries.
  • No other climbers were exposed to the slide but some were ready to enter the icefall.  The details of this final point remain somewhat spotty.  Some people apparently were going into the icefall (after 6am!?!) and might have been pulled out or pulled to safety.  I cannot confirm any accounts so I left this fact as "none" were in the icefall.
These points seemed pretty indisputable at this time and we thought the rest of the expeditions would press on with their climbs despite the huge loss of life in one day.  We all just felt that the rest of the climbers would rally support for the fallen and offer anything to them we could.  News of fund raising efforts hit EBC mid-morning and we all saw this as a good sign that the families of the Sherpa would be taken care of financially.

Just before dinner, I asked our group about their outlook.  I'm a data analyst so I asked them how probable did they think an Everest climb was this year.  Here were the eight (of ten) responses from those on our Everest summit permit (.50, .50, .60, .70, .90, .95, .97, .98).  As you can see, there was quite a spread.  We all had something to gain/lose in this endeavor and yet we seemed to remain fairly optimistic.  That optimism would not change for some of us until we gathered more information. 

More information

One person from our expedition - a person who was not scheduled to summit Everest but rather to climb to 8000m - attended a meeting of expedition leaders in place of our delayed leader Dan Mazur.  Our representative came back with pictures and stories that painted a gloomy picture of the climbing situation.  He reported that there were many things discussed but most prominent were that the parties disagreed on climbing and, more importantly, disagreed on compensation for the fallen Sherpa.  It seems as if the seeds of discontent were sown during this meeting and thereafter.  Our representative merely acted as our earpiece; he offered nothing from our leader's perspective because Dan was still down the hill attended to trekking stragglers.  The bottom line was that there seemed to be a great deal of disagreement among the expedition leaders and Sherpa about how to move forward.  That disagreement, we read, as just disagreement and nothing else.  How wrong we were....

On a more positive note....

We were able to host our Canadian trekking brothers at basecamp.  The events from the previous day occupied all the officials so we were able to give our pals a glimpse of EBC.  They were ecstatic and we were too - just the chance to see these guys again and see how excited they were to be in camp made our days.  Here is a classic photo of our brothers:


Stay tuned for the next day when we learn of more unrest and observe it first-hand.