After spending a couple of days/nights at 6400m (ABC), we are finally back down to Everest Base Camp (North).
Here is a day by day account of our situation on the mountain:
April 25, 2015 (The Earthquake):
We were spending an acclimatization day in advanced base camp when we began to experience terrible earthquakes. The whole mountain was shaking like crazy! The ground sounded like it was going to break, huge avalanches were falling down below the 7500m ridge, and everyone was shouting around the camps. Luckily, no rocks fell over our camp and our team was safe.
I immediately rushed to call home but the network was overloaded and I couldn't speak to my family. I was extremely worried. After several more attempts, I was finally able to reach them. They said Kathmandu looked terrible, but that they were safe. They said many buildings had collapsed and there were many injuries, including many human losses. It was upsetting to hear of the devastation but I felt fortunate to know that my family was okay.
A team of Chinese climbing Sherpas visited with our camp and suggested that all climbers get down to base camp due to the possible aftershocks. All of the Chinese climbers started to go down that evening with head lamps.
April 26th, 2015 (Descent to Base Camp):
I began to descend to base camp with my team. As we were making our way down, we began to experience more earthquakes. Huge rocks were falling from the mountain but fortunately we were not in the fall zone, and it did not affect our descent. When we returned to base camp, we began to hear floods of bad news from the south side of Everest and all around Nepal, including India and Tibet.
I haven't been able to access facebook since I am in Tibet and it is banned by the Chinese. I cannot access it until I get to Nepal.
April 27th, 2015 (The Waiting Game):
We were invited to a meeting held by the Tibet Mountaineering Association (TMA), led by the general secretary of the TMA and other TMA head guides. The TMA expressed their condolences and we mourned for all those who lost their lives during the earthquakes. They presented the current situation of Mount Everest (North) and stated they believe the mountain is not safe to climb for at least a few days. The crevasse risks at the North Col are increased since the aftershocks will continue. They asked participants, leaders, and guides to share their opinions and there were a few teams who decided to end their expeditions and go home. A few team leaders asked whether they can continue to climb and if the TMA would grant them permission. The TMA noted that a few teams are already returning for home and the general secretary announced that the Everest North Side, 2015 is over for this year. He requested that everyone start bringing things down from higher camps and begin packing to leave.
I noted that the climbers looked unhappy and that they wanted to continue the climb. Although a few team leaders have withdrawn their expeditions, there are many teams who want to continue. It's very difficult for team leaders to make decisions to pull out their expeditions because we understand that our clients have put a lot of effort and money to try to climb Everest. Also, many climbers are returning from last season when a devastating avalanche killed 16 Sherpas in the Khumbu Ice Fall, cancelling the 2014 season. The Chinese government told us not to climb until a further decision is made but that they will reevaluate it in a few days once the tourism ministry of Tibet China arrives at Everest base camp. For now, we have been playing the waiting game!
We are already seeing a few teams packing their duffel bags to leave for home.
I have been able to talk everyday with my wife, daughter and parents and they are doing well except that they have to sleep outside in a tent due to further aftershock risk. Of course my family are requesting me to return to home but since they are all doing well, it's also so important for me to focus on my clients and team and try to help them the best I can.
I think the expedition is over for this year although decision is yet to be made. We will see what the Chinese government decides in the next few days.
Everest Base Camp, North