Yesterday I was playing golf in the sun when I had a message that Sky news wanted to speak to me about the Nepal Earthquakes and the rescues high on Everest. Unfortunately I could not speak as I was playing in a match and there will be others more qualified than me to praise the efforts of all concerned and push for more aid. There are lots of comments that mountaineers who know the risks that Everest entail should be left until the local people and the remote villages are assisted. It is a huge moral dilemma? I know enough having visited the area several times about the remoteness and the geography of Nepal. There are few roads away from the cities that there will be so much to do with the limited resources available and the death total will rise well above the 4300 plus. The country is in a state and will need so much aid there are few roads serviceable and many in need of help. It is a huge dilemma for those who make the life saving decisions?
The country has few resources and what they have are basic thank goodness aid is arriving from all over the world. More is needed.
While the cities and villages are doing their best to cope and the need is great and much has to be done. In the high mountains according to the news there were are over 140 climbers stuck above the ice-fall on Everest at Camp 1 at 6000 meters and the route has now been obliterated after the huge avalanche. The icefall on Everest is a terrible place and the ice doctors Sherpas and Guides make a route up the ice – fall every year. The climbers were trapped by massive damage to the route through the Khumbu icefall below camp one, a jumble of crevasses and ice cliffs, which is equipped by the so-called Icefall Sherpas with fixed ropes and ladders every year
Expeditions pay for the use of the ropes and ladders and for the up keep of the icefall make this a dangerous job. Last year in April a huge avalanche killed 16 Sherpas in the icefall all expeditions on the South side were cancelled..
The news said “Three helicopters flying nonstop shuttles have evacuated about 140 mountaineers from climbing camps on Everest, the world’s highest peak, in a rescue effort unprecedented in the sport’s history.
The climbers, including British guides and their clients, had been trapped at camps one and two on the mountain’s Western Cwm since Saturday when a series of avalanches – triggered by the weekend’s powerful earthquake – devastated Everest base camp below them, killing 18 foreign climbers and Sherpas and injuring 61. As of Monday evening, about 15 climbers remained on the mountain.”
Although making the most of a window of fine weather, the rescue was complicated by the fact that the small helicopters could take only two or three climbers on each flight. This must have been some operation and taken so much precision to get all off safely. The gods must have been watching and lots of prayers being said.
“The high altitude – above 6,000 metres – meant that camp one was inaccessible to larger aircraft, leaving pilots of the small Eurocopter B3s to fly multiple missions, touching down for no more than 30 seconds to pick up passengers. There was no way that the climbers could have descended safely through the icefall in its current state and this rescue was an incredible feat.”
I have climbed for over 45 years and visited the Himalayas in India, Pakistan, Nepal and Tibet on several occasions. When you arrive in places like these it is hard to see the poverty and very basic living many of the local live in the cities and villages you pass through. Few of the locals can understand that we pay thousands of pounds to visit these great places and climb and walk in the mountains. They struggle daily for basics like food, clean water, accommodation, education and medical assistance.
Many see most foreigners as very rich people yet their economies need the money that trekking and tourism give these countries. It is an incredible balance and I am sure most climbers and trekkers are confronted by this on every visit. I have thought about it on many occasions on expeditions and we have always helped nearly every village we passed through with medical assistance whenever possible. On one trip our re hydration sachets saved many lives after a water born infection killed many children. Simple things like we take for granted every day like clean water can cause huge problems. We always had at least one or two para medics with us and every day especially the overnight stops in the remote villages we ran a simple clinic. These areas in the mountains are very cut off and help is many days away usually walking or carrying the sick.
Helicopters are rarely used in these remote areas.
Do many others feel this way when visiting the Himalayas?
Comment “I find it hugely upsetting that the majority of the media coverage is about those on Everest and not about the plight of the wonderful local people, the majority of whom had nothing before the quake and who now must be wondering what they have done to anger the gods. Namaste”
The friendship and kindness we got on every trip by the local people has been incredible and those who have so little will give you so much. I cannot imagine the devastation about that has not been seen yet away from Kathmandu. This country needs help and maybe you can assist by donating to one of the Charities on-line.
The Gurkha engineers are on their way out to Nepal and will be a great help as will the additional assistance being sent. My thoughts are with all those involved.
If you can help in any way please donate.
See below from Dave Hahn
“At Camp One, we were up before dawn, boiling cups of instant coffee and hurriedly packing. It wasn’t going to be an ideal scenario, by any means… Being “rescued” from 20,000 ft on Mount Everest, along with perhaps 180 of our closest friends… But we weren’t likely to get any better offers… The Icefall Route that should have been a two hour descent to Basecamp was decidedly out of order and couldn’t be fixed while the earth was still shaking. We got out in the cold shadows in our down suits and thankfully saw clear and calm conditions. Perhaps we all did have a chance to escape the Western Cwm. It seemed unlikely that ninety plus landings and take offs -at what was a record breaking rescue altitude for helicopters only twenty years ago- could be accomplished without chaos or catastrophe… or at least unworkable delay, but sure enough, the first B3 powered on in at 6 AM and the great Everest Air Show began. A fear of the team leaders was a helicopter mob scene ala Saigon ‘75, but we’d arrayed our helipads in a way that didn’t allow for mobbing and everybody seemed to understand the need for superior social skills on this day. There was one way out and nobody wanted to get put on the “no fly” list. Eventually there were four or five birds in the air at any time, flying a dramatic loop from BC to Camp One to BC. A line of climbers with packs formed at each pad and a stream of climbers from Camp 2 made their way into what was left of Camp 1 and then joined the queues. It took four laps in Kiwi pilot Jason’s B3 to get our team down. Although it seemed already like a full day, it was only about 9:30 AM when Chhering and I got off the final RMI chopper. There was no back-slapping. No cheering. No high fives. We’d put down at the epicenter of a disaster and we could barely believe our eyes. Whatever relief each of us felt at being off the mountain was quickly replaced with sadness and awe at the destructive power on evidence all around us. Hearing on the radio about the quake triggered Avalanche that blasted BC did nothing to prepare us for experiencing the aftermath first hand. It was as if an enormous bomb had detonated. We each walked slowly through the obliterated camps, stopping to understand how much force had bent this or that bit of steel. We finally understood the enormous death toll and the nature of the numerous injuries to the survivors. When we reached our own greatly altered camp and heard a few stories from neighbors, we finally understood Mark Tucker’s heroism of the last few days, helping to stabilize and transport dozens upon dozens of seriously injured, bloody and broken people. He and our Sherpa team had gone immediately to help others, even though their own camp was largely destroyed. By now, we are not even mildly surprised to learn that they somehow found time and energy to rebuild camp for our arrival. Our “ordeal” seems trivial by comparison… we had to stay a bit longer in a beautiful and legendary hanging valley and deal with a bit of uncertainty. Now back down to earth… we understand just how lucky we’ve been and we are sad beyond words to learn how unlucky others have been.”