by Kraig Becker
Heavy snows in the Himalaya this fall have made climbing and trekking there difficult at times. Some of the more popular peaks have been hit hard with fresh powder, particularly after Cyclone Phailin made landfall two weeks backs. The poor weather brought in an end to numerous high altitude mountaineering expeditions after unstable conditions made climbing difficult. Sadly, those same conditions resulted in an avalanche on Everest that claimed the lives of four people there.
Last week a team of four Australian trekkers and six local porters were hiking along Everest’s North Side in Tibet when the guides led the group into a restricted area on the mountain. Apparently, the travelers spent a few days staying in this out of bounds campsite, hiking on the slopes of the tallest mountain on the planet. But tragedy struck last Sunday when an avalanche engulfed four members of the team, killing all of them.
Three of the men killed were porters that were helping lead the trek. They were swept up in the avalanche and died on the mountain. The fourth man was a 60-year old traveler who had made the journey to Tibet from Australia just to visit Everest Base Camp and experience the rich Tibetan culture. He survived the avalanche and was evacuated to a medical facility where he later died from a combination of his injuries, age and altitude sickness.
The avalanche was massive enough that it actually cut off access to the North Side Base Camp for a couple of days, leaving more than a hundred travelers stranded there. The vast majority of those stuck in BC were Chinese, although a few foreign hikers were in the group as well. Access to Base Camp was restored within a day or two and no further injuries or casualties were reported.
In Tibet it is possible to actually drive to Everest Base Camp, which can sometimes cause health issues due to a lack of acclimatization prior to arrival at altitude. This isn’t the case on the mountain’s South Side, which requires a week long trek to reach the Base Camp located in Nepal. That lack of acclimatization likely played a role in the death of the Australian traveler suffering from altitude sickness.
Our condolences to the friends and family of the four men who were killed in this tragic accident.