Thanks for following Scott’s blog. Thanks to a resurrected NCell network, we have managed to talk most days. Two days ago, a puja took place at Basecamp for the lost Sherpas. 16 died in the end with 3 still buried in the Icefall and 9 ending up in hospital. Scott and Kent Harvey continue to shoot footage for the movie but the Icefall remains closed. The production company have decided to withdraw the crew from climbing Mt Everest this season. We are not sure exactly when to expect Scott home yet – but certainly he will be home long before June 4, the expected date of return.
A little background on the Icefall: As a glacier wends it’s way down a mountain, it may encounter steep topography. Instead of a flowing river of ice, the glacier will slowly tumble over the steep area resulting in precariously hung ice blocks – seracs. It’s like a slow waterfall. Cracks (crevasses) are prevalent between the blocks. Think of a mars bar slowly melting on the edge of a counter! This is what is happening with the Khumbu Icefall. And there is no other way through to the upper reaches of Everest.
Icefall “doctors” fix a route through the Icefall each season and remain on hand to adjust the fixed anchors and ladders to keep access open. It’s forever changing – a glacier in motion. Ordinarily mountaineers would avoid such a place but you can’t on the south side (Nepal side) of Everest. It’s the most dangerous part of climbing Everest. After the Icefall doc.s (who are Sherpas), the second most at- risk group would be the Sherpas who carry loads and “fix” the upper part of the mountain. These two groups of men will do more laps through the Icefall than anyone else. By Nepal standards, these men are paid well but it is very risky for them.
On April 18 numerous Sherpas had carried loads to camp 1 at approx 21000 feet and were returning to basecamp. In the upper part of the Icefall, a ladder had broken and someone was trying to fix it, resulting in a bottleneck. A massive serac collapsed onto the bottleneck of people – resulting in this tragedy.
A word on job security – Sherpas, guides and camera operators are all contractors – we get paid for the days we work and we mostly take care of our own benefits (insurance etc). I am not certain what benefits the families of the dead Sherpas will receive. Certainly there is nothing from the Nepali government. It’s worth remembering that no-one climbs Everest (or numerous other high Himalayan peaks) without Sherpas. To this end, the American Alpine Club has (just) set up a fund to support the families of the fallen. We have been members of the AAC (and NZAC) for years and believe that this fund will adequately do what it is set up for: www.americanalpineclub.org
We have many Sherpa friends who are kind, gentle and considerate people. Wanaka-based Adventure Consultants, who run many trips to the Himalayas each year, lost three of their people. It is incredibly sad.
Thank you for your support.