All Everest expedition dispatches

There has been a massive earthquake in Nepal. We have heard from our team that all of the climbing team is at Camp 2 and are fine. The earthquake struck while the team was climbing from Camp 1 to Camp 2 in the Western Cwm. There has been extensive damage at base camp and details are still coming in. We will post more information here when we have it.

We have had a fantastic week of training in the lower Khumbu glacier!  After our Puja ceremony we spent 6 days reviewing fixed line techniques, climbing vertical ice, climbing ladders, rappelling, and we climbed about 1/3 of the way up the Khumbu Icefall route to Camp 1.  The route seems easier than the last few years, however we are looking forward to the vertical ladder sections.  We have also been ice climbing, it has been a very productive period of training and we are ready to head up to Camp 1 tonight!  We plan to spend 2 nights at Camp 1 and then climb to Camp 2, and spend 2 nights there before returning to base camp. Be sure to follow our Rainon GPS track as we climb through the icefall tomorrow, this will show the exact track (new route) from Everest base camp to Camp 1.

Photos: Training in the lower Khumbu Icefall




The Madison Mountaineering Everest & Lhotse team at base camp

The Madison Mountaineering Everest & Lhotse team at base camp

Today we had our Puja ceremony with our whole team of climbers, guides, and sherpas. A Buddhist Lama led the prayers asking the mountain for safe passage before we begin climbing. We had very nice weather and will relax this afternoon. Tomorrow we begin our technical climbing review in the lower Khumbu Icefall. The weather is improving and we are excited to begin our acclimatization process by climbing high to sleep at our Camps 1 & 2. Everyone is doing well!

Be sure to catch Garrett Madison in the ESPN SportsCenter Featured episode “At the Top of the World” premiering this Sunday, April 12 on ESPN!

“At the Top of the World”, a look at how the people of Nepal are trying to balance their lucrative livelihood catering to adventure‐seeking tourists with the inherent dangers of the job one year after the avalanche tragedy that killed more than a dozen Sherpas on Mount Everest.

Our team arrived in Namche last night after a wonderful day of trekking and then enjoyed the comfort and fine meals at the Panorama lodge. Today we hiked up to the Everest view hotel for clear views of Everest, Lhotse and Ama Dablam, and then to Khumjung to visit the Hillary School. We will spend 2 more nights here in Namche before making our way up the valley towards base camp. Everyone is doing great.

This morning a few members took a helicopter flight, and we had a look at the new route up the Khumbu Icefall to Camp 1 on Everest. We were able to see clearly that the new route is in fact completely new, and veers to the ‘climbers right’ near Nuptse, avoiding the hanging ice on the West Shoulder that buried the 16 Nepali mountain workers last year. It appears that climbers will have to negotiate broken ice as before, and perhaps more vertical ladders. The red line on the right shows the new route (if you look closely you can see the footprints, ladders, fixed lines) while the red line on the left is the approximate old route from last year. There is at least one section that has 4 vertical ladders tied together to ascend up a very large ice cliff.icefall new route2
good ariel view
vertical ladder2


This morning the whole team flew from Kathmandu to Lukla, to begin our trek to base camp. We just finished breakfast and now starting the hike today, it’s a beautiful day here in the Khumbu!!

Everest & Lhotse 2015 is coming soon…stay tuned!  Check out Google’s amazing footage of the Khumbu!  We are so excited to be back in this magical place very soon!

Everest South East Ridge

Everest South East Ridge



Since the April 18th, 2014 tragedy that killed 16 Nepali mountain workers, many people have asked me if I plan to return to Everest. My answer is ‘yes absolutely’, as our team for the 2015 spring season on the Nepal side of Everest is nearly complete at this time. I enjoy the challenge and experience of climbing the mountain, and leading other climbers to the top. I realize this is dangerous, but I believe that this risk can be managed to an acceptable degree. In analyzing the accident on April 18th, 2014, and the subsequent shutdown of the climbing season I have a few thoughts:

  1. Within hours of the icefall accident the climbing route was moved approximately 100 meters to the center of the icefall, thus avoiding blocks of ice that might fall down from the west shoulder. This was an easy task and should have been done days earlier. There was also a broken ladder that climbers had to use to cross a wide crevasse, and this was very cumbersome. The ladder should have been replaced so that climbers could easily pass through this area. However, this was causing congestion and a crowd of mostly Sherpa climbers were trapped in an exposed area when the ice broke. Next season on Everest (spring 2015) I believe teams will be proactive in maintaining this portion of the climbing route, rather than relying on the SPCC. If climbers cannot easily pass through under the west shoulder I believe they will turn back rather than spend time exposed to this objective hazard. The group hired by the government of Nepal (SPCC Icefall doctors) is supposed to maintain this route. Climbers pay an additional fee on top of the climbing permit for this. In the future our team and others will work with the SPCC to make sure we agree the route is placed correctly, as well in maintaining it as necessary.
  2. As far as the political and labor situation on Everest is concerned, I believe it will be fine in 2015. I have spoken with many Sherpas since the accident and all of them want to return to climb and support foreign climbers on the peak, time has a way of healing us and rekindling our desires. Many climbers have lost confidence in Nepal, and will go to the North (Tibetan/Chinese) side to climb. Others who prefer to climb on the Nepalese (South) side will wait at least one year to see how things play out. There was a drop in the number of trekkers this autumn season, and the locals are worried this will continue into the next year as a worldwide perception that “Everest is closed” persists. I believe there will be a decrease in the number of climbers in 2015, and ultimately this will affect the families of the Khumbu. Less expeditions means less Sherpas are needed. Generally, a Sherpa usually makes 10 times the average income of a Nepalese person by working 2 months on Everest. This money is used to support his family. Without foreign climbers to support on the mountain, the alternative sources of income for these Sherpa who rely on expedition work is scarce.   My personal opinion is that we will return to climb in 2015 and have great success as we have had in the past.

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

EBC Sunrise

We just spoke with our team via VHF radio as they were enjoying the views from the summit of Lobuche East (6105m)! They reported good route conditions with little to no wind and unobstructed views of the surrounding peaks, including Cholatse, Taboche, and Ama Dablam. They are making their descent to high camp and then on to the Lobuche lodge. Tomorrow they will hike back up to Everest Base Camp.

Currently in EBC there is a meeting taking place between a delegation from the Ministry and a representative group of Sherpas to discuss the requests being made to the government. It is a significant and unprecedented, perhaps even historical, event that a meeting such as this is being held at Everest Base Camp – fitting of the magnitude of the tragedy that occurred last Friday. While we wait to hear the outcome of this meeting, many of the major teams have already made their own decisions to end their expeditions for this season.

In other news, Garrett was interviewed by Discovery/NBC for a news special which will air in place of the Everest Jump Live show and also by a group of studio-backed documentary film makers producing a feature film on Nepal, the Sherpa, and the climbing industry.