As most of you probably already know, this past climbing season on Everest was the deadliest in the history of Mt. Everest, despite the fact that the South Side of the mountain was shutdown for most of the spring. On April 18, a massive avalanche rolled down the slopes of that section of the mountain, not far from Camp 1, claiming the lives of 16 Sherpas who were shuttling gear and supplies up the slopes at that time. It was a disaster of epic proportions that will continue to resonate with the climbing community for years to come, and even now, months after the accident, we’re still learning new details about that tragic day.
In the latest issue of Outside magazine, resident Everest expert Grayson Schaffer shares his insights into the lost season on Everest. His article, entitled “Black Year: Everest’s Deadliest Season” is now available online, and it is a long, and exhaustive look at everything that happened on April 18, giving us the most detailed account of the rescue efforts, which eventually turned into a mission to recover the bodies of the fallen. The article takes us step-by-step through that day, starting early in the morning before the avalanche hit, and continuing on until search and rescue operations ceased.
Of course, no story about this Everest season would be complete without looking at the fallout that followed the tragedy, and this one does that as well. It explores the politics and tensions that led to the cancellation of climbing operations, particularly those that were brought to bear on Joby Ogwyn, the BASE jumper who was planning to fly a wingsuit off the summit of the mountain.
The article also looks at the meeting that took place in Base Camp on April 20, which would ultimately lead to the demands of the Sherpas on the Nepali government, and eventually contribute to the shutdown of the mountain. What followed has been the subject of numerous stories, with a small, but very vocal, group of Sherpas applying pressure on their compatriots, the climbers, and guides, to call of the climb, and go home.
This is a long article, and will require some time to get through the entire thing, but it is probably the best, most complete, look at the situation that we’ve seen to date. It incorporates first hand accounts from Sherpas, climbing team leaders, guides, and others who were on the mountain. The further we get away from the tragedy, the more likely we are to get a clearer picture of the accident, and the days that followed. I’m sure the entire story still isn’t known, but we are getting closer.
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