May 2014

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Everest Avalanche Tragedy Rescue Heli

Tomorrow night (May 4, 2014) at 9pm please watch the Discovery Channel special Everest Avalanche Tragedy to learn more about Mt. Everest, Nepal, and the amazing Sherpa people. I’m certain that the special will highlight the heroic and unselfish rescue and recovery efforts that brought together everyone in base camp which were all effected by this terrible act of Mother Nature and feature first hand accounts by Garrett Madison, the leader of one of the recovery teams.

As you watch the special, please provide your generous support to the Sherpa families of the fallen by donating to the charity of your choice such as American Himalayan Foundation Sherpa Family Fund or The Juniper Fund.

For me, I’m still stunned that the avalanche I witnessed in full outside the door of our comms tent took the lives of so many men. I had been up early on the morning of Friday, April 18th as we I agreed with our team the night before to start radio checkins at 6am as they ascended through the ice fall to the Western Cwm. I talked to the team around 6:20am and they decided to carry loads only up to Camp 1 (and not on to Camp 2) due “wind and traffic” on the route. At about 6:45am, we were talking with Dorjee Khatri, our sirdar, up on the mountain when we heard shouting and yelling over the radio and then absolute silence – the radio had gone dead. Almost at the same time, the sound of the start of the avalanche reached our tent and we ran out of the door, fearing the worst. Our greatest fears were quickly confirmed when we saw the ice calving off the West Shoulder directly onto the climbing route at the top of the Khumbu Ice Fall. Certainly not largest avalanche I’ve witnessed but definitely the wrong place at the wrong time. The rest of the day was consumed with working the radio running down the checklist of our team members on the mountain and hopefully waiting for all to be found safe – but it was not to be and, in the end, half of our team of six was lost.

I will be profoundly emotionally impacted by this event for the rest of my life – but in many ways you might not expect. The loss of so many people in one single event, several of which I was dancing, singing, and celebrating with just 18 hours before after our puja ceremony, and the lifelong hardship and impact on their families is rightly the strongest and deepest of these emotions. But at the same time, the valiant and heroic rescue efforts of those Sherpa on the scene who’s split-second dodge of a house sized block of ice by mere feet or inches saved their lives and provided the inner strength and resolve for them to then work for hours to save and recover others leaves me in a state of awe. The same can be said for those who also put their lives at risk to climb up the ice fall to the scene of the accident to provide assistance with absolutely no hesitation.

Overlaying all of this is the one thing that remains common about all expeditions and adventures, the one thing that keeps me coming back for more, and that is — the wonderful people that you meet and the amazing friendships that you form. That’s why I do this and why I love it so much.

Kurt Hunter
Madison Mountaineering
Everest Base Camp Manager 2014