A lot happened yesterday afternoon. The areas of the middle of Basecamp that I mentioned that got dusted were actually COMPLETELY DESTROYED. 40-50% of basecamp is gone. The bowl to the southwest of basecamp and to the west side of the Khumbu Glacier below the eastern faces of Pumori took an avalanche of seracs and ice chunks that fell from at least 3,500’ above. I have before and after photos of the ridgeline. They are startling. A huge jagged point along the ridge north of Pumori was intact before the earthquake. Now the jagged serac of ice is gone and the result was the most devastating event to ever hit Everest Basecamp Proper.
The compressed air that the chunks of snow and ice created in the bowl adjacent to the Glacier had to be released somewhere. The release of this air and pressure was similar to a whoopee cushion or balloon. The air blast was concentrated towards the tents in the central portion of Everest Basecamp. Hurricane force wind from the blast completely pulverized and blew the camp away. Some Duffels from Expedition members were tossed for more than a football field’s length. Expedition boots, dining tent frames, and ice axes were tossed far across the glacier too. Right now 20-plus people are injured and the death toll is 8-20 people, but that may increase. Many of the injuries were similar to ones you might see in the Midwest when a tornado hits, with contusions and lacerations from flying debris. Head Injuries, broken legs, internal injuries, impalements also happened to people. Some people were picked up and tossed across the glacier for a hundred yards. People that took refuge in tents turned out to be the unlucky ones…..only a few feet away if a person hid behind a rock or a ice bank they escaped unharmed. People in tents were wrapped up in them, lifted by the force of the blast and then slammed down onto rocks, glacial moraine and ice on the glacier. Such an unbelievable force of wind and compressed air from the falling ice seracs and snow, it’s very hard to wrap my head around it.
Yesterday I walked to check on friends of mine in the hours after, and to lend a helping hand to the injured. I arrived in Madison Mountaineering’s camp to find it completely leveled. I was relieved to find out that Alan Arnette and the rest of the team was up in Camp I or II on the mountain, but when they return, they will have nothing, they will be homeless and their camp is destroyed. Many other teams will have to accept the same fate, but they were lucky, and so were we. An old friend of mine, Dan Mazur and his Summit Climb Camp was also leveled, but again their members up in Camp I, spared. But the next worry is the state of the icefall, made even more unstable by the Earthquake, and some of the route is now not even intact. On top of that the SPCC Icefall Doctors camp is completely gone, and three of their members dead. Who will emerge to help secure the route so at least these people trapped can come down? Luckily it is cleared here today for at least the morning for a few hours and in the fog a couple of helicopters are not only here to help rescue the injured, but they are bravely flying up to Camp I to see who they can evacuate. Also up higher (Though their camp not destroyed) is Jim Davidson, another one of my Colorado Mountaineering Friends.). Let’s hope these climbers can all make it down safely. For now, Climbing Everest and Lhotse is not a concern. The well being of the people here is. This is a complex conflict now, as the rest of Nepal is also impacted by the Earthquake. Villages below us are damaged, people are dead or injured, and Kathmandu is also in trouble with up to 40% of the City flattened and maybe 1500 dead.
All we can do for now is stay here and wait, but assist others in need. Climbers and Sherpa Climbers are all in need of Shelter, food, and medical care. The lucky ones here that are unharmed and have plenty of supplies it is up to us to stay for awhile and lend a hand.
For now please send good thoughts to the injured, pray for the lives of the ones lost and also good thoughts to all the people here in this huge tragedy. We will be strong and pull through, and I will continue to keep everyone at home updated. I am ok, and unharmed and so is the rest of my team here, grateful we were lucky to escape the Earthquake and the Avalanche unharmed.
I’ve been in contact with meteorologist Chris Tomer daily for weather and now to relay details of this tragedy.
Keep Climbing- Dr. Jon.
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