This picture was taken today as my friend Dawa Sherpa was leaving base camp. Dawa is the man who was by my side when the avalanche struck. He's the guy who spent all day yesterday digging his friends and neighbors out of the snow and sending their limp bodies hanging on a cable from a helicopter down to base camp. After a long 16 agonizing hours he showed up at my tent, before going to his own, to make sure I was ok. He's an amazing man and I have great respect for him. He's a perfect example of the selfless Sherpa people that we entrust with our lives while on the mountain and who we quickly learn to call our friends.
The Sherpa community here in Base Camp is naturally quite shaken by this event and most of them have decided to step back from this expedition for a few days, trek home to their villages and reassess the situation with their families.
Unfortunately the death toll is still climbing. We have recovered 16 lost souls as of an hour ago. We're hoping to locate two more of the missing today and get them back down here to BC, one way or another. This scene is a lot for us western climbers to take in so I can't imagine what our Sherpa partners are really feeling and thinking as we all witness the worst disaster in Everest history happening in front of our eyes.
We've been getting a few questions and hearing a few comments that I'd like to try to address:
- This accident was just that - an accident; an act of nature where we humans happen to be in the way. It was not caused by "overcrowding". Matter of fact, there were only about 40 of us in the entire icefall and we were spread out. There was no one waiting for others in order to move up and no congestion anywhere in the icefall. It appeared to be perfect climbing conditions right up until the moment the thunder struck.
- The avalanche took place just below camp 1 at about 19,000 ft and the time was approximately
- The Sherpa that were lost were carrying loads to support the upper camps. The fixed lines and ladders through the icefall were already in place. There were very few western climbers in the area and all of us had our climbing Sherpa by our sides and they all survived.
- The trash scene on Mt Everest is not what it used to be. Through the great efforts of many organizations and individuals this mountain has been cleaned up and looks wonderful. All too often we hear stories about the abuse of nature but we rarely hear when people have gone to great lengths to reverse the damage. Everest is one of those stories. Excessive trash did not cause this to happen. There is absolutely no garbage that I saw anywhere in the icefall. Actually we should all be proud of how good this place really looks. This was a random act of nature.
This is a tough time for everyone here on the mountain but accidents, and even death, are part of the deal. If climbing Everest were easy and risk free, I suspect we'd all take a hike to the top of the world. The price that has been paid over the last 24 hours is a large price indeed. I guess the climbing Sherpa as well as all of us western climbers need a few moments or days to re-evaluate what's worth what in this life.
Early this morning I read a comment written about me where the author said, "I hope he finds what he's looking for up there." I appreciated that notion because it got me to thinking about what am I looking for, and I think I have found it whether I see the summit of Everest or not. I'm looking for an adventurous life. I want to see the whole world and all of its people. I want to lay in my death bed and know that I did and saw all that I wanted to in the time I spent spinning through space on this ball of mud. I want to know that I lived fully! So far in this life the things that I regret the most are the things I didn't do; the things I didn't have time for; the situations that scared me to much. I want to push myself to do and see until I can't anymore. I want to inspire my two boys to aim high, to take from this world and give to mankind more than they can imagine now. I hope I have a lot of life left to live and I hope I keep finding what I'm looking for. I'm glad my friend brought this topic up because I needed to remember today just why I'm here.
I'm so flattered that so many of you are following this adventure. It's awesome that I get to follow my dreams and I remember everyday that all of this would be hollow and meaningless without all of you being part of my life.
Please send positive thoughts or prayers to the families of our fallen Sherpa brothers.
Peace - Jon