4/29/2007

Everest Base Camp
April 29, 2007

Namaste:

The death of Dawa Sherpa on the Lhotse Face was a stunning and sad blow to everyone on the mountain. We arrived just after it happened, and one of our group helped bury him in the snow. They brought his body down the mountain yesterday and a helicopter picked his body up this morning from EBC and took it down the mountain to his family in Solu. He has a wife and 4 children. I hope everyone will pray for his soul and for his family.

The sherpas are the heart and soul of climbing Mt. Everest and the surrounding mountains. They form the backbone of every expedition and, without them, climbing 8,000 meter mountains would be limited to a select few. The shepas are incredibly strong. When I return, you will see from my photos that the loads the men, women and children carry up to EBC from Lukla are phenomenal. The average westerner could not even lift these loads off the ground. From EBC, the climbing sherpas carry all the heavy gear and supplies (e.g., tents, food, fuel, stoves, oxygen, clothing) up the mountain and set up and maintain all the camps. They move multiple times up and down the mountain and do it with ease, like a trip you and I would make to the local market to purchase a carton of milk. They are also a gentle and happy people, always smiling and laughing and ever eager to help with any task. For example, I ripped one of my climbing boots with my crampon. I gave the boot to one of the shepas yesterday and he hand sewed it and had it back to me, just like new, within 15 minutes. It is a real pleasure to be here with these wonderful people.

We moved up to Camp I on April 23 and spent the night. The next day we moved to Camp II. On April 25, we did an acclimatization climb to the fixed lines on the Lhotse Face and then returned to Camp II. Our plan was to climb to Camp III (not fully established) on April 26 and then return immediately to Camp II. We arrived at the fixed lines just after the fatal accident on April 26. Out of respect for Dawa Sherpa we returned to Camp II. On 27, the weather turned nasty, so we descended to EBC where we are resting for several days. So now you are caught up.

Our return to EBC was complicated by the fact that there were several icefall collapses while we were at Camp II. Fortunately, no one was injured. These collapses required the attention of the Icefall Doctors, which involved changing the route and repairing, replacing or moving the fixed lines and the ladders in the Icefall. All these changes were made before we came down, so our trip back to EBC was uneventful.

Yesterday, a huge ice block at the top of the Icefall collapsed. From EBC, it sounded like a sonic boom and a plumb of snow could be seen rising from the location of the collapse like a bomb had gone off. Later in the day, a huge ice serac, calved off from the glacier and thundered down the mountain. It was the loudest and longest fall to date.

We learned yesterday that our kitchen tent at Camp II blew away in the strong winds we have experienced over the last few days. Today, our sherpas are back at Camp II exploring the damage and re-establishing our kitchen tent.

As noted, we are resting at EBC for a few days. After the rest, our plan is to climb to Camp II and spend the night and then climb to Camp III and spend one or two nights. We will then return to EBC for more rest and acclimatization.

Bill Burke


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