On the heels of a devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake in Nepal this weekend, the outdoor industry’s attention has been glued to Mount Everest where the disaster triggered avalanches that killed at least 21 people on the mountain and injured dozens of others.
That would make it the most deadly day in the mountain’s history, but as National Geographic's Freddie Wilkinson points out: “paling in scale to the thousands who perished nationwide in the earthquake.”
Survivors describe a chaotic scene on Everest following the avalanche and video shows some dramatic moments:
SNEWS is gathering reports from any brand athletes in the area, including Black Diamond’s and Arc'teryx's Raphael Slawinski, who fortunately was on the northeast face of Everest — away from the avalanche, but nevertheless faced danger, he writes in a blog post:
The ground was shaking harder and harder: it was becoming hard to keep your balance. I sat down on the cobbles. The initial eerie silence was broken by the clatter of rocks bouncing down the hillsides above basecamp. Stones emerged from clouds of dust only to be swallowed up again. Long after the shaking stopped we kept asking ourselves, “Can you feel it? Can you?” It was hard to tell the difference between aftershocks and the pounding of blood in our temples.
Slawinski’s team is attempting a new route up the northeast face and is unsure what the future will hold for the mission.
Eddie Bauer / First Ascent athlete Melissa Arnot was attempting to become the first woman to summit Everest without supplemental oxygen. Arnot and her climbing team were down the mountain at the time of the avalanche and checked in via satellite phone to confirm their safety.
BACKPACKER Magazine gear editor Kristin Hostetter counts herself fortunate: she was standing in Everest Base Camp less than a week ago. “Even before all this happened, it was a profound experience,” she told SNEWS. “Looking right up into the [Khumbu] icefall, thinking about what happened [in 2014]…it made me nervous for my friends.”
Hostetter recalled that days before the quake, she had lunch with Juniper Fund co-founder David Morton at a teahouse in the village of Thame. “They call it the ‘widow’s walk,’ because every home lost a Sherpa in last year's avalanche,” Hostetter said. “We received scarves and blessings, then continued on our way. Later, David posted to Facebook that the entire village had been flattened.”
On the south side in Nepal, we’re following reports from three mountain guides, including:
>> Dave Hahn and JJ Justman of Rainier Mountaineering Inc.:
“It wasn’t going to be an ideal scenario, by any means… Being rescued from 20,000 feet on Mount Everest, along with perhaps 180 of our closest friends…”
>> Eric Simonson of International Mountain Guides:
“Bottom line is that the route is badly broken up, many ladders are lost, and ropes buried. For the IMG team, it took 32 flights to get our 25 climbers and 33 Sherpas all flown down.”
>> Alpine Ascents International:
“Over the next week we will do our best to get climbers homeward bound, and to assess what we can do down valley to help our Sherpa communities. Climbing Everest seems pretty trivial compared to the destruction, and loss of life that has affected this amazing region. It reminds us all that despite how much we may want to climb a mountain, the most important part is the human aspect.”
We'll continue to update this post as more information becomes available.