Thursday, May 8, 2014

Recap from 4/18 onward....Day 1 of many

Greetings Everest enthusiasts.   I am home now and slowly recovering from some strange stomach bug I contracted between Kathmandu and home.  All is well enough for me to sit for about an hour.  Here are my observations from the days leading up to our climb's cancellation.  I begin with April 18th - the day of the avalanche that killed 16 Sherpas.

We began the day in Lobuche where our group had a lovely time playing cards (hearts for those who care) and Bananagrams before heading off to EBC.  Below is a picture from bottom left clockwise is Alex, Sam, Scott, me, "Lobby" and Liam.  We had great fun and laughed a ton while playing.  For the record, Alex was the hearts champ for the climb.  Next year, we start over from scratch, right Sam?
If you do not know Bananagrams, I strongly encourage you to check it out.  As you can see from the picture above, we had a ton of fun.

Our day began peacefully and without much fanfare.  The porters brought our bags within eyesight so we had no stress and could casually stroll to EBC via Gorah Shep.  We all felt a bit of sadness because our trekking buddies would soon depart for their descent while we pushed on to EBC.  Our Canadian brothers provided us with loads of laughs and I know many of us wished they could continue on.  Their trek ended in Gorak Shep because the Ministry of Tourism decried a ban on all non-climbers from EBC.  Typical years on Everest allowed trekkers into camp but this year would be different.  Boy oh boy, it was different all right.

When we arrived in Gorak Shep, we heard that an avalanche struck the icefall - a typical occurrence during this time of year and day but what was atypical was that climbers were caught in the slide.  We had no other details other than something bad happened.  Our Canadian trekkers said goodbye and headed off to Kala Pattar for the Everest views while we headed out toward EBC with little more knowledge of the day's events.

At the formal "entrance" to EBC, we heard from various sources that the avalanche was quite severe and that there might have been as many as 100 climbers in the icefall at the time of the event.  We had no other details but these "word of mouth" tidbits and we pressed on to our camp located roughly 30 minutes from the opening of EBC.  Once there, we noticed that our camp sat adjacent to the mid-EBC helicopter pad.  There was a flurry of activity with helicopters landing and taking off throughout the day.  Still, we remained completely ignorant of the situation.  I grew more and more worried as the day progressed because I knew several climbers who got to EBC many days ago.  If their expedition teams were keeping to a typical acclimatization schedule, many of them would be in the icefall that day.

I felt physically great at this point but mentally I was really worried for my friends.  It was too late to wander around EBC because we got there late so I opted to get some rest and try to find my friends in the morning.  I chatted with Kathy (my awesome wife) that night and told her about my concerns.  She was worried too because That night was a fitful sleep with constant tossing and turning - attributable to not knowing the whereabouts of my friends.

So day 1 started with all smiles and ended in worry.  I continue my recap tomorrow...stay tuned.

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