April 2014, Mount Everest, Kathmandu
An unprecedented shutdown of Mount Everest after the worst ever accident on the world’s highest peak has left grieving Nepalese Sherpa guides and their families fearing for their livelihoods.The avalanche on April 18 that tore through a group of Sherpa’s — who were hauling gear up the mountain for their foreign clients before dawn – left 16 people dead and three others seriously wounded.
The resulting labour dispute, with Sherpa’s clamoring for better death and injury benefits from the Nepalese government which reaps huge revenues from the multi-million dollar climbing industry, saw scores of expeditions cancelled. (After Everest disaster, Sherpa’s contemplate strike)
The effective closure of the mountain this season dealt a huge blow to international climbers who paid large sums for the chance to fulfil their dreams of scaling the 8,848-metre (29,029-foot) high peak.
But Sherpa’s, who are often the sole breadwinners for their extended families, face a more desperate problem, with many left struggling to make ends meet in a country mired in poverty.
May 1996, Mount Everest
Seven men and a woman, including veteran climbers Scott Fischer and Rob Hall, died when they were trapped by an unexpected blizzard as they descended Mount Everest’s 29,028-foot summit. It was one of the worst tragedies on Everest since its conquest in 1953. Jon Krakauer wrote about the tragedy in the best-seller Into Thin Air.
Nov. 1995, Nepal’s Gokyo valley
Twenty-six people — 13 Japanese climbers and 13 Nepalese guides — were killed by an avalanche in the Gokyo valley of Nepal. At least 46 climbers were killed in avalanches and landslides that weekend in one of Nepal’s worst disasters.
Nov. 1994, Mount Pisang
Nine Germans, one Swiss and one Nepalese Sherpa guide died while climbing down Mount Pisang in northwest Nepal, in one of the worst mountain climbing accidents in the Himalayas. All eleven climbers were attached to one rope.
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The Worst Disasters on Everest: 1. 1996
The statistics alone—eight dead in a single storm, including a guide and two expedition leaders; 12 total for the season—distinguish 1996 as Everest’s single worst year. The story has been told and retold by many different participants and from various perspectives, bringing more light to this horrific episode in Everest’s history than almost any other, including the early British expeditions. The conclusions, particularly those by Jon Krakauer, who had been on assignment for Outside at the time, weren’t positive: commercial competition and overcrowding on the upper mountain had been the root of serious problems, and many deaths. And it was a dramatic wake-up call for those who sought to ply their business on Everest.The upshot is that many expeditions now report numerous improvements in the wake of that dismal season. Communication has become more consistent and reliable, there is generally more cooperation among the outfitters, and infrastructure continues to improve from Base Camp to the summit. This, of course, doesn’t rule out future problems, even another large disaster. But the most serious professionals on Everest these days appear to be working hard to prevent it.
The Worst Disasters on Everest: 2. Mallory and Irvine Disappear
The 1924 Everest expedition seemed full of promise. It was George Mallory’s third trip, and he believed he’d deciphered much of the route; the summit was indeed within his grasp. He was determined and didn’t want to come back again. What his climbing partner, Andrew “Sandy” Irvine, lacked in experience he made up for in raw athleticism and mechanical skill (he was an expert with the oxygen system). The pair was last seen on June 8, around 1 p.m., by Noel Odell, a teammate who had climbed partway up the North Face and, during a break in the clouds, observed, “none other than Mallory and Irvine moving expeditiously” toward the summit before the clouds closed back in.Mallory’s body was found in 1999, prostrate and well-preserved high on the North Face, broken bones indicated a lethal fall. Irvine has never been discovered. Nor, perhaps most tantalizing, has the Kodak Vest pocket camera the two men are known to have had with them. Although many experts seem to conclude that the chance Mallory and Irvine reached the summit is slim, the mystery endures—as do periodic searches for the camera and the further clues it might contain.
The Worst Disasters on Everest: 3. A Lone Climber Is Left to Die
In 2006, a lone British climber named David Sharp become the focus of one of the most intense and protracted controversies in Everest’s history. Early on the morning of May 14, Sharp was discovered near comatose in a small alcove high on the Northeast Ridge. He had been climbing solo, only loosely affiliated with a low-budget expedition of independent mountaineers. Thus, no one reported him missing, and it took several days before anyone could even figure out who the climber was. But his identity would make no difference; Sharp would not survive, even though he was passed by an estimated 40-plus climbers that day, only a few of whom attempted to revive and move him.The incident appeared even worse a week later when the Australian climber Lincoln Hall was rescued under what appeared to be similar circumstances. Could more have been done to save Sharp? Should more have been done? Did other climbers have a moral obligation to help a stranger who seemed closer to death than life? The media chaffed and roared, pointing fingers, leveling blame at the big-money expeditions that walked past the Briton. But like many things, the account was full of complicated details and deeper explanations. In the end, sharp would become the fallen protagonist of one of Everest’s most vivid and disturbing parables.
The Worst Disasters on Everest: 4. a Deadly Descent
In 1998, at age 41, Hawaiian-born Francis Arsentiev became the first American woman to reach the top of Everest without supplemental oxygen. She had ascended via the Northeast Ridge with her husband, Sergei, but the climb had taken its toll. On the way down, in the dark, the pair became separated. When Francys did not show up at the first camp, Sergei, who believed his wife had been ahead of him, gathered oxygen and medication, and set back up the ridge at first light to find her. The next 48 hours were grim, even by Everest standards. An Uzbek team encountered Arsientiev, frost-bitten and half-conscious, high on the North Face. They spent an hour trying to revive and move her but eventually left.A similar incident occurred when Cathy O’Dowd and Ian Woodall encountered Arsientiev as they ascended. Again, attempts to revive her failed, though she was still alive. By the third day, climbers passing by reported that Arsentiev had died. Nearby was a rope and ice ax, belonging to Sergei—but no Sergei. His body was found years later, lower on the North Face, apparently having fallen to his death attempting to save his wife.
The Worst Disasters on Everest: 5. a Negligent Guide
In May 2004, a 69-year-old pathologist from Alexandria, Virginia, reached the summit of Everest via the Southeast Ridge. It had been a long, arduous climb, and Nils Antezana had hired a guide named Gustavo Lisi to help him. But on the way down, Antezena became disoriented, perhaps suffering from the onset of cerebral edema, and collapsed near The Balcony, several hundred feet above the highest camp. Though two Sherpa’s attempted to revive him, they, and Lisi, eventually left the doctor in the snow and continued to camp. Lisi, who claimed he was “dead tired,” failed to inform anyone else at Camp 4 of his client’s condition. When climbers ascended the ridge the next morning, Antezena had vanished. While the guide-client relationship on Everest has endured scrutiny and skepticism, this was one of the first instances where the accusations went beyond mere negligence to claim criminal behavior. An investigation from the family finally petered out, but Lisi’s reputation was ruined, and the story has cast a pall over commercial climbing on Everest ever since.
The Worst Disasters on Everest: 6. the Icefall Tragedy
The year 1970 was a busy one on the mountain. Several large expeditions were stationed on the south side, including a Japanese ski expedition starring Yuichiro Miura. This meant upwards of 150 people would have to pass through the Khumbu Icefall, the ever-shifting river of ice that has become one of the most dreaded and lethal features on the route. On April 5, a large avalanche swept into the Icefall, hitting Sherpa’s from the ski expedition. Six were lost. It was the worst tragedy to befall that Sherpa community since the 1922 British expedition, and it underscored just how dangerous the work they were doing really was.
The Worst Disasters on Everest: 7. Boardman and Tasker Disappear
In 1982, when the British duo Peter Boardman, a climbing instructor, and Joe Tasker, a former seminar student, set out to tackle the Pinnacles, a fearsome triad of shark’s teeth jutting out of Everest’s Northeast Ridge at nearly 26,000 feet, they were two of the most promising alpinists the sport had ever seen. They championed and advanced a stringent alpine-style approach in the mountains, now de rigueur among hardcore climbers. Despite the seriousness with which they approached climbing, they had a wry sense of humor and were known to keep life at Base Camp light and fun. On May 17, the pair left their high camp on the Northeast Ridge, and, after 14 hours of climbing above 8,000 meters, were enveloped in darkness. It would never be clear what happened after that. In 1992, a team of Kazak climbers discovered Boardman’s body, “sitting peacefully” near the base of the Second Pinnacle. Joe Tasker was never seen again.
The Worst Disasters on Everest: 8. the West Ridge Accident
In 1974, an ambitious expedition led by Frenchman Gerard Devouassoux, the deputy mayor of Chamonix, set out to make a “complete” ascent of the mountain’s formidable West Ridge. Though first-ascent credit generally goes to Willie Unsoeld and Tom Hornbein for their 1963 climb, the two Americans had relied on several route variations: they hadn’t climbed the entire ridge to the summit. Devouassoux and 19 team members intended to “straighten the route out.” They arrived late in August, after, they hoped, the monsoons, which regularly deposited deep, unstable snow across the mountain’s flanks. They knew the weather would be a gamble, but they didn’t count on losing. The monsoons kicked back in while the climbers were spread across three high camps. During the night of September 9, a large avalanche flushed over the tents, burying Devouassoux and five Sherpa’s. They were never found in the debris. It was one of the worst single incidents ever recorded on the peak, and climbers avoided the West Ridge for the next five years.
The Worst Disasters on Everest: 9. the North Col Avalanche
That climbing Everest was not to be taken lightly became clear from the very first British expedition, in 1922. On June 7, while George Mallory, two British teammates, and 14 Sherpa’s were plodding through waist-deep snow, approaching the North Col at 23,000 feet, they heard a loud report and the mountain started sliding over them. A massive avalanche swept away nine of the porters, flushing them into a crevasse a few hundred feet below. Remarkably, the survivors managed to find two of them alive; but the remaining seven were left on the mountain, where they died. Mallory blamed himself for the accident, and later wrote to his wife, Ruth, “There is no obligation I have so much wanted to honor as taking care of those men.”
Disaster News on Mount Everest, Kathmandu-pdf
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