Earthquake triggers avalanche on Everest

Posted by Alex Messenger on 26/04/2015
Everest hit by avalanche (file picture).

A powerful earthquake has struck Nepal, causing extensive damage and triggering huge avalanches on Everest. Up to 20 climbers and Sherpas are reported to have been killed at base camp, and the route through the icefall has been destroyed.

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The quake, which measured 7.9, struck between Kathmandu and Pokhara, according to the US Geological Surve and Nepal's National Seismological Centre.

Tremors were felt as far as Pakistan, Bangladesh and India. A Nepali minister said there had been "massive damage" at the epicentre, and in Kathmandu there are reports of collapsed buildings and casualties.

The airport was damaged, but flights are expected to resume soon. 

A police spokesman said the death toll in Nepal alone had reached 1,341, about half of them in the Kathmandu Valley. 

The earthquake caused an unusually large avalanche from between Pumori and Lingtren which hit base camp, and another is reported to have hit the icefall from Nuptse.

Soon after impact, Romanian mountaineer Alex Gavan reported that “Everest base camp huge earthquake then huge avalanche from pumori.Running for life from my tent. Unhurt. Many many people up the mountain.”

Whilst experienced Everest climber Daniel Mazur commented that “A Massive earthquake just hit Everest. Basecamp has been severely damaged. Our team is caught in camp 1. Please pray for everyone.”

It is the height of the climbing season on Everest: the Nepal Mountaineering Association say that 700 climbers are in the region and over 300 are on Everest.

There were early claims on Twitter by @NorthmenPK  that "Camp1 and camp 2 swept away by avalanche, many climbers missing. climbers also missing from north side as per reports. ".

However, these were quickly proved inaccurate since they did not match what the rest of the climbers were saying. Mountain Trip reports that  over 20 people are confirmed dead at Everest base camp and 17 critically injured, who are being evacuated by helicopter. However other sources suggest currently up to 17 are dead. 

Many websites and social media report other climbers and trekkers as "missing" in the Everest region and elsewhere in Nepal, but this may be a communications issue.  All reports suggest that climbing community casualties are limited to Everest base camp. 

Over 100 climbers and Sherpas were above base camp - at camp 1 and camp 2. The icefall route has been largely demolished, but helicopters have now reached camp 1

Dave Turnbull, CEO of the British Mountaineering Council, said: "This is a major tragedy. We are still gathering information about the impact of mountaineers at Everest base camp and elswhere in Nepal. Our thoughts are with all those affected by the earthquake."

Everest base camp: hit by serious avalanche

Everest base camp is most badly affected. Alan Arnette, in an audio despatch from on Everest, reports that "there is severe damage to base camp and some injuries."

Reuters originally reported that eight team members were killed at base camp on the south side. This figure varied throughout Saturday, but now appears to have settled at 17 to 20. 

Marni Oostra of 360 Expeditions, whose husband was at camp 1 during the avalanche, posted on their Facebook page:

"After seeing this being the top topic on the news I should update you so you have facts.It is with great sadness that we have to report that we have lost 3 amazing Sherpa from our team. There are a further 5 confirmed dead and we hear this could rise significantly but until things are clarified I will leave this for now.

"Rolfe and Jo are based at C1 and we are thankful they left BC when they did - we are also thankful they got through the ice fall in the speed they did so were not there when it struck. Basecamp is in a state and I believe that many teams members, Sherpa and westerners will come back to nothing. Rolfe and Jo included.

"There is a meet at C1 tomorrow with all team leaders at 8 am therefore I expect to hear from rolfe at our 4am for an update. Plans are to head to C2 to be in a safer position or to investigate trying to get down. Getting down isnt the easy option as the ice fall has been affected and the carefully chosen route is finished. Weather and safety will dictate."

Rolfe Oostra then relayed a first person report: 

"As Jo and I arrived into C1 in low vis we heard a tremendous noise – it was all around us - presuming an avalanche – which was a nightmare to pin the direction on. The noise and movement was enough to trip us off our feet. later there was the loudest noise I have ever heard coming from below (base camp) which produced an enormous backdraft. It was not easy to work out what was going on but we were naturally now pretty wired trying to predict avalanches as well as make out what was happening. After frantic coms to BC it was related to us that there had been huge avalanches and landslides on a devastation scale into BC triggered by the earthquake. We are in radio coms with BC and sat phone coms back home. We are all okay but devastated for our friends and colleagues. Raj Joshi and Bhola are okay too - so sorry i never worte that before."

Alex Gavan, the original mountaineer to tweet, posted an update from base camp


Jagged Globe have now reported that one of their team members has been killed: "It is with the greatest sorrow that we report the death of one of our Everest team members, Daniel Fredinburg. Two other team members have non-life threatening injuries. All Sherpas and other team members are uninjured and are safe in base camp or in Gorak Shep, a nearby cluster of tea houses and lodges. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Dan’s family and friends whilst we pray too for all those who have lost their lives in one of the greatest tragedies ever to hit this Himalayan nation."

Whatever the final figure is, for the second year in a row this is very tragic start - and possibly end - to the Everest climbing season. It's almost one year since an avalanche swept down off the west shoulder of Everest and killed 16 climbers – all Sherpas. 

Sunday: helicopters begin evacuation

On Sunday, helicopters have reached base camp and camp 1 and started evacuating casualties and dropping supplies. 

Aftershocks and small avalanches have also been reported. 

The North side: escaped lightly

The north side has escaped lightly. Gareth Douglas told us on the BMC Facebook page that "We are on the Makalu exped on the north side, all is well at base camp bar rock fall with no casualties. ABC is also ok but there was an avalanche off the North col resulting in one broken leg as far as we know."

Chris Harling, Leader of Adventure Peaks Everest North Ridge 2015 Expedition, sent us an update from the North side (Tibet) base camp

“Here in base camp we initially felt minor tremors, then the ground began to feel like jelly as waves passed through the rocks beneath our feet. Climbers appeared from tents all over camp to try to start to comprehend what they were feeling. As the movement became more violent I expected the loose and precarious rocky slopes above the camp area to start shedding huge boulders - it was extremely alarming wondering if we were to be buried by rockfall. Sure enough, an area of steep cliffs did break off sending car sized boulders hurtling down only a few hundred metres from our tents. We are still feeling aftershocks hours later. Our thoughts are with any local staff working on Everest who may have been affected by losses in today's quake.

“I'm currently tucked up in my sleeping bag thinking hard about a horrible crazy day when mountains millions of years old came alive, when solid rock shook like jelly and the two substances that I love to climb on came crashing down destroying lives and dreams. It's eerily dark and silent now and the sky has not wanted to miss out - basecamp is now covered with 6" of fresh snow. Waiting for the next set of aftershocks to shake the ground beneath my tent.”

We interviewed Sean James, a mountaineer and guide at the north base camp. He said: "I've been in many disasters in the mountains and earthquakes before. This is seemingly bigger than anything before. It's only been 24 hours since the first shock of the earthquake hit us. It seems like longer." 

Read the interview from north base camp

Elsewhere

Elsewhere in the mountains, reports are trickling in concerning teams and trekkers on other mountains. Most of this news seems tentatively positive at the moment, with Everest base camp being the only reported location of climbing casualties. 

Give an Oxfam emergency donation to help victims of the Nepal earthquake.

if you're researching an article, read our Everest: facts and figures

Reports from climbers at base camp

 

After seeing this being the top topic on the news I should update you so you have facts. It is with great sadness that...

Posted by 360 Expeditions on Saturday, April 25, 2015

Reports from climbers at camp 1 and camp 2

 

Other Peaks

Pictures from Kathmandu:

More information

Insurance information for BMC Travel Insurance policy holders

How can you help? How to donate to help Nepal

Our interview with a mountaineer at the north base camp

Rolling report from the Guardian

The Daily Mail has some pictures of Everest base camp

WATCH: the avalanche sweep through Everest base camp


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