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Everest South: Ben's accident update - Shaunna to continue
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Apr 20, 2005 09: 11 EST
Yesterday Canadian climber Ben Webster broke his leg in two places while capturing footage for NewRO in the Khumbu icefall. Everest was over for Ben this year, and Shaunna Burke had to decide if she would go for it, or abort her attempt as well.

Shaunna will continue, reports the team, and provides details of the accident:

“Ben is currently resting at the Himalayan Rescue Associations Clinic in Base Camp awaiting evacuation by helicopter to Kathmandu. There was an extensive team of Sherpas and members from other climbing teams who dropped everything to assist in Ben's rescue.”

Shaunna’s decision

“Shaunna will accompany Ben to Kathmandu tomorrow (today) - Ben will then be flown back to Canada for surgery. She will then return to the mountain next week to continue her climb with the Sherpa Team.”

In a recent diary update, Mike Swarbrick, the team's media technician, recounts the rescue and provides some first hand impressions.

“What a difference a day makes, or sometimes a moment,” wrote Mike.

Premonitory concerns

“Ten minutes after doing a video piece for the New R.O. this morning about the instability of the Khumbu Ice Fall, Ben Webster had an accident. He and Shaunna were on their way back from Camp Two, near the top of the Ice Fall when the glacial ice collapsed beneath his feet. Ben fell to the side with one foot caught in the jagged ice breaking his left leg just above the boot line. Both bones snapped and the foot and lower leg turned 90 degrees to the side. Shaunna called me immediately to initiate a rescue.”

“Word quickly spread and before long there was response from our own and neighboring Sherpa Teams. A chair, ropes and stretcher were carried up over six hundred meters, through the treacherous icefall to assist. Several Sherpas who came upon the scene straightened and splinted the leg with two bars from a backpack and duct tape. Then dragged him to a safer location.”

Fifty Sherpas to the rescue!

“About an hour and a half later with the arrival of our extended team, Ben was placed on a stretcher and the process of moving him down the ice fall began. Food, drinks, and pain killers quickly followed. It’s estimated that nearly fifty Sherpas suited up and took it upon themselves to assist in the evacuation. Ben thanked them many times as a group for their unbelievable work in time of need. Many of them have known Ben for years but some help also came from complete strangers.”

“Upon hearing the news, our old friend Willie Benegas of Mountain Madness also dropped what he was doing and headed up the icefall to help. It’s great to know that remarkable people like these are around in times of need.”

Never give up your dreams

“Tonight Ben is resting at the Himalayan Rescue Associations Clinic here at Base Camp awaiting evacuation tomorrow by helicopter to Kathmandu. Shaunna will accompany Ben to Kathmandu tomorrow to oversee his initial treatments. She will then return to the mountain next week to continue the climb with the Sherpa Team. Ben insisted, from his bed, that she didn’t give up her dream but that she continued to the top for both of them. It was a touching moment. That’s what I call “the right stuff”. Never give up your dreams. Never give up.”

Shaunna Burke and Ben Webster were returning to Everest to finish an attempt which ended in high winds at South Col last year. Sponsored by Telecom Ottawa, Ben Webster, Everest summiter and producer of the award nominated 6-part mini-series for the Discovery Channel was leading the small team and streamed satellite video to high schools of the Ottawa Carelton School Board. Shaunna has been on Everest twice filming for the Discovery Channel and is returning this year to summit and carry out her Ph.D. thesis on the psychology of Everest climbers.

Image of Shaunna and Ben in the HRA clinic in BC yesterday courtesy of Algonquin College/Everest – A Higher Learning Experience.

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