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.
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
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.
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!
Obie and i just arrived back in utah. Someone suggested that i write my thoughts on trekking in Nepal and taking kids to altitude
Health and hygiene
Start with a good multi-vitamin before you leave. Preferably a tasty one.
I would have taken extra vitamin c for Obie.
He had the odd bout of mild diarrhea and I would empty half a probiotic pill into something yummy that he was eating.
Have lots of little hand sanitizer packets and get the kids used to them and accepting
Really emphasize no nose picking and eating (seriously) and to keep hands away from mouth unless eating with clean hands
Use a buff or similar that can be pulled over the kids mouth and nose on the dusty trails. The Khumbu cough starts below Namche where the track is most dusty and crowded.
Obie slept in his own sleeping bag in the Teahouses. Not only cozy but avoided any bugs, germs that may linger from other Trekkers
Keep kids heads warm as altitude increases. This helps them acclimatize apparently.
Obie never wore his gore-tex but I kept his hooded down jacket handy (great buys in both Namche and in Kathmandu) plus gloves and warm hat and sun hat.
I gave paracetamol in yummy liquid form for headaches. Obie used it twice but make sure you follow directions carefully.
Peak Promotion, our outfitters, sent us with a bottle of oxygen in case of any trouble. We never used it but reassuring to have (and heavy)
Have some kind of moisturizing oil like jojoba – Obie’s cheeks got quite chapped and he got some dry skin on his bum and upper thighs as well.
Wet wipes and toilet paper in the top of your pack.
Wet wipes for grimy faces and hands
Scott has a steri-pen for sterilizing but I mostly used a gravity filter. I would leave it to filter while at breakfast and it took about half an hour (depending on the grittiness of the water) to filter 3 liters. I would then pop an iodine tablet into each bottle just to be sure and would later use the neutralizer pills to take away the iodine taste. Obie carried a camel back and this was invaluable. Keep the nozzle tucked back inside the shoulder strap to keep it clean.
I took lots of nuts, bars, nori snacks and fruit leathers for the trail. There is plenty of food at the Teahouses so I reckon I overdid it. Last time I was here there were not so many snickers bars and kitkats!
Doctors – Namche, Kumjung and Pheriche
Get good rescue insurance for peace of mind that includes heli rescue. I used International Medical Group. Alpine clubs also offer good rescue insurance packages. You need to be a club member and you have to organize it in advance.
Personally I have always gone a bit too fast and worked too hard while still low. I hoped that with Obie, I would acclimatize nice and slow. It seemed to work for him but I think I physiologically struggle to acclimatize to 18000. I just need to take a lot of panadol and/or excedrin (Scott’s recommendation that worked quite well).
So my advice if you decide to take kids up high above 14000 feet/4000m is to absolutely take all the advice for proper acclimatizing: go slow, take rest days where you hike around a wee bit, drink a lot of water and generally do the minimum climbing that you can each day. This is dictated by the position of the Teahouses. Pheriche to Lobuche is a 700m elevation gain (to 5000m) but Lobuche to Gorak Shep is only 300 m and Basecamp is only another 50m. Many go from Lobuche to BC but we stopped at Gorak Shep.
The goal of reaching BC was very loose. I was completely prepared to return to Pheriche if Obie’s pulse oxygen sat was still 60%. I always thought we would just make it to Pheriche or Dingboche. The Sherpas all thought that Pheriche would be the highest Obie would go. There were a lot of comments about how strong he was. I would honestly say that he was significantly better at altitude than me (granted I am susceptible to coughs in recent years, should probably get it checked out. My sinuses were very stuffed up which would not have helped my oxygen uptake). But even when I was 21 in the Indian Himalayas, I suffered going above 18000ft/5000m.
At Gorak Shep I felt like shit but Obie’s energy was great. Scott had to go to Basecamp anyway so why not go once my excedrin kicked in?
The real secret weapon to Obie’s health and stamina was Khunga. He basically cruised with Obie all the time and would give him short rides put Obie down then piggy-back him again. I just ambled along with my own pack and the water and food. It was Khunga’s first time into the upper Khumbu so he had his fair share of headaches as well. I felt like it was well worth the money to have Khunga.
What did Obie think of the trip: he liked the yak and yeti hotel because of the kids and the pool.
What was most memorable for him:
The animals: yaks, pika, horses, danfe, eagles, dokyo, dogs and one very friendly cat!
Response to cold. Doesn’t bother him, was not very cold.
Sherpa attitudes – doubts, concerns, then impressed.
Attitudes from Trekkers – slight notoriety