NEWSLETTERS - Everest South 2013

Newsletter #1129 April 2013

Avalanche in the Icefall


On Sunday, 28th April, our five guides, Woody, Suzanne, Shinji, Bruce and Francois as well as two of our members, Evelyne from Switzerland and David from the UK together with Ang Karma and Nima Sherpa went for a reconnaissance trip to Camp I. They left base camp at 2.30am and they actually had a good run through the icefall until about 5am, when all of a sudden frantic shouting filled the maze of ice. “For f*** sake, run,” Woody screamed. The reason for the panic in the treacherous Khumbu Icefall was that huge ice seracs were tumbling down towards our team, who had just arrived at the top of the icefall moving to Camp 1.

“I have never appreciated my helmet so much,” said David Tait when he got back to base camp at about 9am. “Russell is one of the few operators, who makes his team wear a helmet, avalanche transceivers and carry radios through the icefall, and now I know why. I think the piece of plastic on my head saved my life.”

The incident was yet another reminder that moving through the icefall is not to be taken lightly, however, the potential danger is a lot less than last year. “This season, moving underneath the huge hanging seracs on the West Shoulder of Everest only takes most people about 10 to 15 minutes. Last year, most climbers were in the danger zone for more than one hour, which would be completely unacceptable in the Alps,” Russell explained.

Luckily, the avalanche did not cause any serious injuries and everyone was ok, however, they still came back trembling. “When I heard the ice crushing down I just screamed ‘jump’ and four Sherpas from another team and I dived into a crevasse for protection,” Evelyne said. “There were arms and legs and rucksacks everywhere, but we were safe!” The Swiss mountain guide was also astonished by how her body reacted after the avalanche. “After the incident, we continued to Camp 1. It was incredible how quickly I was going. I was almost running, which at this altitude must have been brought on by the adrenaline rush.”

The incident also showed once again that having barrels with shovels, ropes and other emergency kit at key points, such as the bottom of the icefall, the ‘football field’ as well as just below Camp 1, is very important. “Himex has provided the shovels, probes, first aid kits and barrels. I think this is essential, as are avalanche transceivers, radios and helmets in the icefall,” Russell said.

Relaxing at base camp

After the team had reached Camp 1 and used the facilities, which had been set up by our Sherpas, to make a brew and have some food, they quickly came back down and reached our base camp just when the other members had finished their breakfast. “I am happy we are all back safe and sound but I must say that compared to last year, the route is much better,” Woody said.

The rest of the day was spent getting over the initial shock, sleeping, showering and doing laundry, “Billi, you must take a picture of this! This is a rare sight: two guides doing their laundry,” Martine from France shouted when she saw her husband Francois and Woody washing their clothes. “Well, yesterday I was an 80ies DJ and today I am a laundry man! When will I ever be a guide?” Woody wondered.

Well, the opportunity will probably come up soon as Himex is planning to send all Everest, Lhotse and Nuptse members to Camp 2 for their second acclimatisation rotation. “The Sherpas continued to fix the rope on the Lhotse Face all the way to Camp 3 on Monday, which means we can now establish our camp and move up, “Russell said during a briefing after lunch.

If all goes well, the whole Himex team will leave base camp for Camp 2 in the early morning hours of Wednesday and stay there for five nights all together. “The Everest and Lhotse teams will have three nights at Camp 2, one night at Camp 3 at 7,400m and another night at Camp 2 before we move back through the icefall to base camp,” Russell explained.

As far as the Nuptse team is concerned it could well be that they will attempt for the summit while they are up there. “We will have to see what the conditions are like and how the Sherpas get on with the rope fixing,” said Francois, our Nuptse guide.

So, things are finally moving and an air of nervousness and excitement is spreading through the Himex camp. “I am very excited that we are finally going up. It seems that things are moving and that the Nuptse expedition will also be on track,” said Ellen, who together with Jing from China, Martine and Francois from France and your blogger Billi from Germany is on the Nuptse team.

I will probably post one more newsletter before we move up – so, watch the space!

There are reports of fighting at Camp 2. Please be assured that Himex staff and members were not involved in any of this.

Billi Bierling at Everest Base Camp