What is next and what can you do?

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.


Scottie back to Everest North side

After an excellent (albeit jet-lagged) 17 days at home, Scott has returned to Everest. This time it’s the North side and he is scouting with David Breashears. I am scarce on details but Pemba (who just climbed Everest with Karina) and Phulla (David’s camera assistant) are both going. Scott is flying into Kathmandu and the crew will travel overland to trek into the mountain. Climbing season is over so it’s just a look-around. Scott will be back in 3 weeks and then it’s to NZ on July 14!
We had a great trip to Capitol Reef National Park last weekend. Here’s one of the family canyoneering (courtesy of Steven Thomas Howe)

Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef National Park

Call from Camp 2

Scott called from Camp 2 – it is evening on May 13. He said he is feeling 80% – not great but quite normal for the environment. Tomorrow, May 14, they will head to Camp 3 and start using oxygen. This is also Karina’s birthday! Wally Berg has kindly provided weather information and the best days to summit this week will be May 16 and 17. The 17th looks slightly less windy but with 100 people poised to climb the Mountain on May 17, Karina’s team has elected to go for it on May 16. Being from tropical Brazil, Karina feels the cold and standing in a long line of climbers all day will not be safe. She also does not have the power to pass other climbers on the fixed ropes.
On May 15, the team will head to camp 4 at the South Col, the last camp. From Camp 4 the climb is 3000 feet – a big day at this type of altitude. Leaving the evening before, the team will climb through the night. They have a turnaround time of 11am. If they have not made the Summit by then, they will retreat. This will be their only attempt as oxygen supplies only allow one attempt. For more detailed information on the route, check out Alan Arnette’s blog: http://http://www.alanarnette.com/everest/everestsouthroutes.php
I’ll keep you posted as Scottie calls me from the sat phone.
PS Mou Mou (Obie’s mouse) has her O2 mask strapped on apparently. This is contrary to earlier reports and it looks likely that she will be climbing with oxygen.

Thinking up

Scott and crew have been in Basecamp the past few days. The weather has improved and the ropes are almost fixed to the Summit. Thanks to Adventure Consultants for providing the Swiss weather report, it looks like they will start the journey upward Saturday Nepal time. The weather window looks good for between the 15-17 May. Cold though – the report forecasts temperatures of 20-40 below (C). Scott’s suit will be crowded with all the batteries keeping warm in there!
He’s looking forward to the summit push now that he’s been treated for unwanted intestinal guests. Lighter too no doubt.
Once they leave BC, updates are more sporadic but I will update as I get news. Think up. Send warm vibes!