Easter Events and the Everest Avalanche  4/20/204

Video of the destructive serac collapse that triggered the worst accident in Everest history.

Many have mentioned the recent tragic avalanche on Everest two days ago which stands to become the single biggest tragedy to occur on the earth's highest peak.  There are presently 13 confirmed casualties and scores of other injuries.  Bearing witness to that avalanche was my friend, Mark Horrell.  If his name sounds familiar, it is probably because you read his review of my book a couple of months back. http://www.markhorrell.com/blog/2014/when-the-mountain-gods-are-angry/

Mark is not climbing Everest, he's already done that two years ago from the Tibetan side.  This year he secretly planned an attempt of Lhotse, the fourth highest peak on earth.  Some claim that Lhotse is actually a subsidiary peak of Everest.  The climbing route shares the same steps as a traditional ascent of Everest all the way nearly up to the South Col, at 8000 meters, before breaking off to the right up the Lhotse couloir.  When I heard of the accident, I wondered how Mark fared.  Tonight he was able to check in and share his account of the massive serac collapse that triggered this horrible slide through the Khumbu icefall.   http://www.markhorrell.com/blog/2014/the-sherpa-sacrifice/    Ironically, he just penned an exceptional and witty historical account of the Sherpa sacrifice prior to his departure and it is an exceptional tribute that almost eerily sets the stage for this weeks horrible accident.    http://www.markhorrell.com/blog/2014/10-great-sherpa-mountaineers/

The deadliest day on K2 was in 2008 when a similar collapse in an area known as the "bottleneck" stranded climbers high on earths second highest peak.  Overhanging blocks of ice that had been stable for eternity sheared off and sealed the fate of 11 world class mountaineers.  I can tell you that when you scale a high peak, it is the falling rock and ice that scares you more than anything.  Broad peak and K2 are notorious for rockfall.

 Everest's notoriety is marred by the disproportionate number of deaths that traditionally occur in the Khumbu icefall.  The videos of those crazy ladder crossings occur in the icefall and climbers will share horror stories of passing through that zone.  The fact that it was Sherpa who died is neither surprising nor unusual.  They are the ones who have the greatest exposure in the most dangerous section of Chomolungma (Everest).  Considering that a Sherpa makes about 5000 USD for an Everest expedition (10x the average annual wages for their non guiding peers) this is an integral part of their culture and economy.  Folks who make comments should take that into consideration.  A Western guided expedition can cost up to 60k per climber.  If there is any good news in something that will have repercussions throughout the Nepali villages and climbing community, it is that the avalanche actually probably made the icefall route more stable.  Right now, teams are deciding whether or not to continue.  I know that must be a difficult call.  The American Alpine Club has established a fund  to assist the families of those who lost their lives.  It may be found here:  http://americanalpineclub.org/p/sherpa-support-fund   Many thoughts and prayers will go out to everyone.

Now back to Highlander Events.  Jerky Mike is the only one representing us this beautiful weekend.  He is on a 3 day solo trek in search of his final miles in the park.  I received a picture of high rocks on Saturday so I know he is ok and expect a full trip report from him tomorrow.  Many of us had Easter plans or toilets to fix or, in my case, both.  I did make a late afternoon mountain bike ride into beautiful William Hastie Natural area and the abundance of wildflowers was astonishing.  I saw geraniums, trillium, hepatica and Solomon's seal in addition to bluets and a couple of fire pink already.  And the dogwoods are exceptional this year.  Some of the best were at my parent's home in Morristown where I enjoyed the best Easter feast imaginable.  Thanks Mom and Shelby.  

We should be back on the trail next weekend.