Everest. No matter where I am at this time of the year, my thoughts are always going to Everest. It’s climbing season. It’s as if I’m climbing Everest all over again as I follow the teams up the mountain. I remember it like it was yesterday; the time waiting in basecamp, the heavy steps, the clear starry nights, the cold thin air, the sound of the wind on the tent. I remember hearing the noise of the glacier, the pangs of avanlanches going off. There are people there now experiencing all that.
I often check the time of the day and compare it to Nepali time. I know where the climbers are on the mountain. Some are walking where I walked, see what I’ve seen, having one of the biggest experiences of a lifetime. Some are fighting for their lives. Maybe there’s still someone alive in the icefall from the falling ice of yesterday (techically not an avalanche). This will likely be Everest deadliest year.
I remember climbing the Khumbu icefall early morning. I remember trying to walk silently as if not to wake something up from a dangerous sleep. I knew it was risky and beyond my control. When I was there I wasn’t even going to climb Everest – I was going for a “training climb” on Lhotse (and got sick from infection instead). But after going through the icefall I decided I wouldn’t climb Everest from the south. It’s a scary place. Even for the fantastic Sherpas who risk their lives. Somehow I was even more sad to read that there was Sherpas who died. The Sherpas are amongst the most humble, respectful, strong and caring people I’ve ever met.
The Sherpas are doing an amazing job on Everest. That’s what it is – a job. The normal income/year in Nepal is 500$. A porter/guide can make $5000 from climbing Everest. That can help their family to survive well in one of the poorest countries in the world, put the children to school and education. As for the Sherpas who died, it’s a tradegy for their families. Most of the companies who hired the Sherpas will support their families. I found a recently started Sherpa support fund where you can donate a little help. I will.
I read the list of victims, of Sherpa’s names and don’t know yet if I knew anyone.
I tried to climb the icefall and Lhotse with Ang Jambu Sherpa. He was usually very relaxed, climbing in jeans and a baseball cap, but in the icefall he got tense and hurried, didn’t allow any time to rest through the obstacle course of ladders and towers of ice. Yes, it’s risky. Is it worth the risk? I don’t know. For me it was worth the risk of climbing the north side. I’d do it again.
As for now I’ve read that there will be no more climbing on Everest for a few days. It’s a time for reflection and mourning. Death is always present on Everest, and it needs to be remembered.
The best coverage from Everest is here, if you want to read more: http://www.alanarnette.com/blog/2014/04/17/everest-2014-avalanche-near-camp-1-sherpa-deaths/
A video of a avalanche on the lower part of the icefall from 2009: