The tragic events of April 18th and the sorrow, complexity and tensions that have followed have led my team and I to abandon our expedition. It’s been rather easy to say goodbye to Everest itself. Frankly, I haven’t had much interest in even looking at the Khumbu Icefall this past week. What has been difficult is bearing witness to the confusion and conflict of the past week as local workers grieve, organize and demand labor rights, the government scrambles, and hundreds of climbers cling to their dreams and business interests. A few days ago, as if to respond to those of us consumed with our wide array of human problems, the mountain produced a tremendous icefall eerily similar to last week’s disaster. Whether out of support for the rights of the Sherpa people, respect for the sixteen lives lost, political instability, climate change or the mood of Chomolungma herself, climbing Everest does not feel right this year.
Delivering aid to struggling families here is quite difficult and complex. There will be pujas (blessing ceremonies) for 49 days, and lump sum contributions would be quickly spent in pujas with the best intentions of the devout Buddhists living here. I am confident that the American Alpine Club’s Sherpa Support Fund will provide for the thirty-five children who are now fatherless through long-term stipends.
The trip from here
I am an alpinist, and spent the last week not only dealing with the uncertainty of Everest, but also exploring other options. Logistical issues, route conditions, Chinese visa problems and high permit fees have thwarted my ability to continue this trip in some capacity on Ama Dablam, Cholatse, Khumbutse, Cho Oyu, Makalu and other nearby peaks.
A few days ago I did “solo” (it’s a popular route) 20,075 ft Lobuche East in a light and fast style. It was great to get out of base camp for a day, but upon return to base camp the sadness and structural problems of this year were palpable. More on this climb and my complete thoughts on this year’s events will follow.
I ran fortyish miles down the trail in just over a day, waited a day in Lukla for good weather, and flew to Kathmandu. Now I’ll spend a few days here and return to the US within a week or so. I am well physically and mentally.