Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

In Perspective

"There are more Western doctors, more facilities, more medical supplies and more equipment to manage that situation in the Everest Base Camp than anywhere else in Nepal."
"Any climber who has any sense of attachment to Nepal, or any sense of fairness or right or wrong would agree."
"Those climbers are up there because of a chosen avocation, or sport, and they're fine. And I think they all know that. You might see some occasional pleas or cries for help, but they have to think, 'I'm up here by choice."
"It's with manual labour and toil and engineering and risk that the sherpas go in there [Khumbu ice fall infrastructure] and put the ice screws in and fix the lines and position the ladders. That's why we hear reports of climbers being trapped. Some of the climbers I talked to today said they can't go down to get this thing fixed."
"Some are talking about taking helicopters to shuttle them back and down across through the icefalls so they don't have to climb. But I sure hope somebody is saying they should use those helicopters elsewhere in Nepal because there should be a great deal of demand for that equipment elsewhere."
Wally Berg, Canadian mountaineer
In this photo, released on Monday, a rescue helicopter is shown at Mount Everest’s south base camp. (

"We all rushed out to the open and the next moment a huge wall of snow just piled on me."
"I managed to dig out of what could easily have been my grave. I wiggled and used my hands as claws to dig as much as I could."
"I was suffocating. I could not breathe. But I knew I had to survive."
Bhim Bahadur Khatri, 35, sherpa cook, Everest Base Camp

What Mr. Berg, who operates an adventure company out of Canmore, Alberta, and who has himself climbed Mount Everest repeatedly feared, has in fact occurred. A handful of helicopters was diverted from search-and-rescue operations in Nepal's earthquaked zone, to rescue the estimated 170 people who were on the slopes of the world's tallest mountain. A relative handful remain, and will be taken off the mountain by Wednesday.

There were nineteen climbers whom the avalanche killed -- triggered by the 7.8- magnitude earthquake that devastated Kathmandu and surrounding area -- whose bodies will be taken off the mountain for return to their families and burial. The injured are being treated. The death toll in Nepal itself, with many of its isolated villages still to be reached by rescue crews, has surmounted five thousand, with countless thousands of people having sustained injuries, some very serious.

Mr. Berg's observation that the mountaineers take risks when they decide to trek up Mount Everest is quite correct; most of them are fairly well provisioned, with food enough and medicines to last them weeks. But in the event of emergencies and when natural events occur of such disastrous proportions people tend to lose perspective, knowing that many have died and there is no guarantee that aftershocks causing other avalanches will not recur, and they prefer to be evacuated, their aspirations of summiting shattered.

The reality is, as Mr. Berg has observed, people die on the mountain year on year. As did 16 sherpas last year, in one fell swoop in the Khumbu Icefield area, cancelling that season's climbs. The Khumbu Icefall, a perilous portion of the climb, just above Base Camp, has become infinitely more treacherous since the avalanche began with huge rocks being dislodged from a promontory directly above the Icefall, rendering all the preparatory ascent/descent work done annually by sherpa volunteers useless, and stranding mountaineers on the slopes above.

Some climbers posted appeals on social media for help. "Huge disaster. Helped, searched and rescued victims through huge debris area. Many dead. Much more badly injured. More to die if not heli ASAP", wrote Romanian climber Alex Gavan. The response to his appeal ensured that those on the mountain were taken away from the area posing such potential danger to them.

A rescue chopper carrying people down to Everest base camp on Monday. (Nima Namgyal Sherpa/AP)

Mr. Berg's long experience in Nepal and his care for the country and its people were front and centre in his statements, that many from within the climbing community have been assailed with grim sadness and yet a sense of inevitability. Seated on a major fault line, Nepal is quite simply vulnerable to the tectonic shifts taking place in the bowels of the Earth where an Indian plate and a Nepali plate grind against each other, gradually shifting Nepal itself under Mount Everest in incremental steps long into the geological future.

There is a "long and deep sentimental and emotional attachment to the people. They are humble; they have great integrity and inner spiritual strength and resilience. We care for them and we're thinking about them. A lot of us from the developed world who have been to Nepal and love it, I know, are wrenched with this loss of those ancient medieval streets that we used to walk", stated Wally Berg, of a country and a people that have taken his heart.

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