The 2014 climbing season on Everest is off to an inauspicious start. The teams haven’t even begun to arrive in Base Camp yet, and we already have a serious accident and a fatality on the South Side. Hopefully these incidences aren’t a sign of things to come this year, and will remain isolated cases.
The Sherpa who passed away on Tuesday was named Mingma Tenzing, and was working for the Peak Freaks team. According to team leader Tim Ripple, Mingma visited the doctors at one of the high altitude clinics in the Khumbu region because he wasn’t feeling well. They determined that he was suffering from altitude sickness and arranged to have him evacuated to Kathmandu, where the lower altitude could help ease the condition, and doctors were better equipped to assist. Unfortunately, Mingma passed away in Kathmandu due to HAPE (high altitude pulmonary edema). As you can imagine, the entire Peak Freaks squad is in mourning. They only just flew to Lukla to begin their trek yesterday, and this is not at all how they envisioned starting their expedition. Mingma was from Namche Bazaar, the largest town in the Khumbu, and was part of the Peak Freaks’ summit team. He will be missed.
Alan Arnette was the first to report on both the death of Mingma, and the injury of another Sherpa on the Icefall Doctors team. The Ice Docs are the special squad of Sherpas who are tasked with building and maintaining the route through the very dangerous Khumbu Icefall each year. They are the ones who install the ropes and ladders that the climbers use when passing through that section multiple times during the course of their climb. As the ice shifts and moves, the route often needs to be repaired as the season commences. It is one of the most dangerous jobs on Everest, even though the Icefall Doctors never get a chance to go up to the summit.
Yesterday, Alan received word from someone on site that one of the Icefall Docs had fallen into a crevasse, breaking his leg in the process. His teammates were able to get him out, and shuttle him down to Base Camp, where he is expected to be evacuated today. Last year, one of the men working on this team fell into a crevasse and died, so thankfully there wasn’t a repeat of that accident this year. The accident was said to have taken place close to Camp 1 however, which seems to indicate that the Doctors may be close to completing their route through the Icefall. That means teams can begin climbing upwards not long after they reach BC next week.
Reports have begun to trickle in from the Khumbu, and it seems that many of the climbers are now on the trail to Base Camp. Their trek will take them up the valley, passing through a succession of small villages as they go. Along the way, they’ll be treated to some spectacular views of the Himalaya, including the occasional glimpse of Everest and Lhotse. Their acclimatization has begun, and the expedition will start to feel very real now. It is an exciting time, filled with lots of laughs and camaraderie, as the climbers build a rapport with one another and get to know each other better.
We’re still several days away from the first teams arriving in EBC. Lets hope that is the next news that we hear, and not more stories about accidents. My condolences go out to the family of the fallen Sherpa, and lets hope the Icefall Doctor who was injured is on the road to recovery soon.
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