Newsletter 2712 May 2010
New helipad and other recreational activities
Base camp has been reasonably quiet with most teams having moved down the valley to recover from the strains at high altitude and enjoy some ‘lodge life’. As already mentioned, the Himex team has opted not to go down to the lower elevations but stay at base camp and use the time to relax or watch movies in the White Pod, go for walks, write emails or do more exhausting activities, such as building a new helipad.
With an increasing number of helicopter flights arriving at base camp, the need for a second helipad arose last week. At the beginning of the climbing season, the doctors of the HRA clinic coordinated the building of a helipad, which was to be used for medical evacuations only.
The fact that some clients had been flown out without any medical emergency triggered a debate of whether to allow commercial flights into base camp, or not.
“The main reason for the helipad are rescue flights, however, with more and more commercial operators offering tourist flights to Everest base camp, we needed a better place to land,” said Russell.
On a walk through base camp, Russell and the Italian climber and helicopter pilot, Simone Moro identified a new site, and at the end of last week, around 20 Sherpas, clients and guides from the Himex team joined forces and constructed a new helipad. “It took about ten people to shift a huge rock, which would have obstructed the landing helicopters,” said Russell.
No helicopter has landed on the new helipad yet, but there have been several landings and take-offs this season, be it for rescues or for commercial flights, giving tourists a chance to get out, breath base camp air, take a quick picture and fly back to Kathmandu.
“Maybe in the future we can charge a small landing fee that would go into a fund, which can be used to maintain the path from Gorak Shep to base camp,” Russell said. However, these are just ideas and might only materialise in the next few years.
Just after the new landing site was constructed, most of the Himex Sherpas left base camp to go home and visit their families. “They only take a few hours to go down to Khumjung or Phortse, where most our Sherpas are from. For them it is absolutely worth taking the time off, even though they will have to be back here on 11 May,” said Russell.
And so the waiting game continues with the Himex clients going for walks, visiting other teams, helping with the cooking, sorting out their tents, eating and relaxing. It is still up in the air when the weather gods will allow the hundreds of climbers to move up and touch the roof of the world, but till then, I will try and keep you up-to-date with more stories from the region.