The Daily Moraine 2015 #5 - Season is at a close8 May 2015
Yesterday was an intensive day for all expedition members. I had managed to pre-book a helicopter from Simrik Air and also was able to have Jason Laing the Kiwi pilot who we have been working with over the last few years, to fly an intensive schedule. Jason was able to fly through a storm from Kathmandu to Lukla the evening before and so was already positioned for an early start. My first phone call to him was at 04.30 as he was preparing the helicopter for take-off. The operation started with a flight to Pheriche where we left fuel, then to Everest Base Camp to pick up Richie and Urken who then went to Camp 1 to dismantle the camp so as it does not become litter on the mountain. The second flight took Mike and Narwang to Camp 2, again to tidy up the camp so as we can hopefully find this equipment again next year. It was decided to take the gear that was at C1 to C2, just one flight, before then taking Richie and Urken to C2 to help with the packing. The helicopter then returned to Pheriche stopping at BC to collect Anne and Bob. Having refuelled at Pheriche Jason then did 3 rotations to Makalu Base Camp in order to collect the Makalu climbers and Sherpa staff. This gave us time to pack the gear at C2. Then again we did two flights from BC to C2 in order to bring the packing team back down. Then some short flights from BC to Pheriche where now for the first time since the start of the season all Himex staff were together. As we already had the helicopter in place we decided to fly everyone the short distance back to Lukla, where we meet with the rest of the Everest team. During the day everyone was able to fly out to Kathmandu either by the helicopter returning or by fixed wing normal flights. Just 5 were not able to make it, but they had an early flight this morning and so were still able to have breakfast in the Hyatt. A complicated and stressful day, but made very good use of the limited time that we had use of the helicopter, and of course was productive in getting everyone back to Kathmandu so as members can return home.
Although this event took place some days after the initial mass exodus from Everest BC, this has given us time for the Makalu team to descend from ABC to BC, and for the Everest members to walk out from BC to Lukla whilst the guides have been dismantling the Everest BC. The Sherpas were also back at BC helping with the packing so they also all left BC yesterday. However it will still take about another 6 – 7 days for porters and yaks to take all the equipment from BC to Gorak Shep where it is stored. But we are content that we have not left any rubbish (or camps that will become rubbish) on the mountain or at BC.
So now I can consider that the season is at a close. Of course none of us (members, guides and Sherpa’s) are happy that we cannot continue to climb, but we are at least happy that we are still alive.
I wrote my last newsletter in Ktm just before I was returning to BC. Immediately after my return to BC I had a meeting with the SPCC who provide the Sherpa staff for fixing the route through the Icefall. At this meeting I reiterated that Himex was not putting pressure on the Icefall Doctors to continue to climb. There were just a few people who were wanting to climb, unfortunately even one of my members was lobbying very hard for me to continue. Even coming to me and saying that the SPCC would continue if there were more than 16 climbers wanting to continue on Everest, and that we had 8 climbers in our team who wanted to continue. But with a show of hands at a meeting in our camp it clearly was not the case. This member has since returned home, saying that he thinks that the media has over reacted about the amount of damage the earthquake has done in Nepal. Of course his short trip from the airport to the Hyatt does not give much resemblance to the damage and death around the country, remember how I have already mentioned how resilient Nepal people are, and how quickly the city of Kathmandu has almost returned to a semblance of normality.
The same member went against my guides instructions to not go into the Icefall, but of course he did, and then actually called for a helicopter rescue from the Football Field which is about half way through the Icefall. It is all very easy to climb the easy part of the Icefall (which this year is actually quite easy and fast) and to then come and tell me that the Icefall should be open. But he does not have to carry loads there day after day. Besides there is no other infrastructure for higher on the mountain, so all quite pointless really.
I also notice that some of the media have attacked me for saying that I was going to continue with my expedition. I am somewhat surprised about this because at no stage did I ever say this. I did however mention that I was considering if this was a possibility or not. Considering means that I listen to all options, what the MoT say, what the EOA say, what the NMA say, what the SPCC say, what my guides say, what my Sherpas say and what my members say. After all this consideration I then as an expedition leader make my decision which I then expect all my members to obey. I take my decision seriously and it is very much safety for my staff and members that comes first but also recognises the general situation around us. So thanks to all of you around who sent your opinion from afar….many emails of support…. and a few of disgust. Not helped by certain media outlets.
Immediately upon my return to Kathmandu I was summoned by the Indonesian Foreign Minister to discuss our search for the 3 missing trekkers in Langtang. The sad but encouraging news was that the Army Search team had now found 53 local and 4 foreign bodies in Langtang, (but not any of our members or staff) however they had also found one kit bag of one of our trekkers. The search will continue and as the temperatures warm up and the snow and ice starts to thaw the avalanche debris we will find more bodies.
I have attached a before and after photo of Langtang which used to have about 300 homes.
So although the Himex expedition team members are all pleased to be safe, we have still to now help the families of the 11 local staff that we have lost in Langtang and the Makalu areas. We also need to support our Sherpa staff that have had damage done to their homes. Like many organisations we will also open a relief fund. Today I am organising for a dedicated webpage that will deal with funds and will explain where funds are spent. I am also organising a dedicated bank account for the collection of funds. I am sorry but I am not a big organisation and do not have tax advantage systems in place. However all money deposited will go directly to those who we directly know who have been affected by the earthquake.
I propose the following system:
What we have discussed with my Sherpa team who have suffered damage is for each Sherpa to send a picture of the damage to their homes along with an estimation for repairs. We will then completely pay for this if there is enough money in the kitty, or will pay a percentage if there is not enough money. Maybe we can make progressive payments as money arrives.
For staff who have died we would want to initially pay the families the same as their insurance payment, so as they receive the same again as what the insurance will pay out. The insurance will take quite a while to process so a cash payment will be quite helpful to them in the early stage.
The Nepal Government has said that all donations to Nepal need to go via the Government accounts, but can we trust that this money is going directly to the people…?I think not. So better that we collect money off shore and then we get to our bank here in Nepal and then distribute the cash accordingly.
I hope that people, especially those of you who have been on expeditions or trekking with us before will help support. Please look for the web page and bank account details which should be available in the next few days.
However, in the meanwhile, our Sherpa staff and our local agents including the Nepal authorities are encouraging us to continue with our expeditions next autumn season. We have to be strong, stand up again, brush off the dust and try and get our lives back to normal again. For many of us this is very painful, but it is a necessity of life. Despite what I often say about the lack of leadership by those in power here in Nepal, private enterprise has been leading the country forward, albeit slowly, and now that resolve is showing itself again as life returns back to normality despite the hardship that is thrown at this poor community.
So we will be continuing with our expeditions to K2 and Broad Peak this summer and to Manaslu this autumn.