Everest avalanche update: No fatalities reported!|
May 4, 2005 10: 35 EST
A huge avalanche struck Camp 1 on Everest's south side route early this morning. It began when a big chunk of a serac fell from Everest's West Shoulder and hit the glacier at the left side of the tents in C1. Seven people suffered injuries, according to Mountain Madness guide Willie Benegas. Luckily, no fatalities have been reported!
Only five tents left
The snow and the massive wave destroyed most of the tents there (between 40 and 60, depending on the sources). After the avalanche, only 5 tents remained undamaged.
Apparently, the Iranian team was nearby when they heard the avalanche roar, according to the Valencia team. The German team from Leipzig was on its way down to BC from C2 and they found Camp 1 destroyed 30 minutes after the avalanche.
Leipzigers: "Injured people cried to us for help"
“I will never forget that sight,” reported Olaf Rieck. “In the place where the colorful tents of Camp 1 stood, there was just a flat surface of ice rubble and stones. We went to the 5 intact tents, there were three people there trying to stablish radio contact with BC, and they told us what had happened."
“Among the debris we found three injured climbers. They have sought shelter inside a half destroyed tent, waiting for help. Two Sherpas were already helping them. Three other injured climbers cried at us for help. One Sherpa and I tried to reach them very carefully, as the broken terrain through the tents was not safe anymore. They told us that they were part of a big commercial team, and asked us to go back to BC as fast as possible and get some help."
Extraordinary good luck
"We had no first aid kit, so we ran back to BC. 45 minutes later, as we were in the Icefall, we met the first people going to the rescue. News of the accident had spread, but at this moment nobody knows for sure how many people had spent the night in C1. If the people we had found were the only ones in Camp1, that would have been extraordinary good luck.”
No missing climbers reported
Surprisingly, there have been no further reports on missing climbers. Right now all the expeditions are positive that there have been no fatalities. Team Mallorca, however, reports that several expeditions, some in a serious state, have begun to be evacuated down from the mountain by a group of Sherpas. "The most serious problem is to know whether people have been buried under the snow. "
The Mallorcan expedition was in BC at the time of the avalanche, and suffered only material damages.
Helicopter evacuation difficult, not impossible
Hopefully, rescuers will manage to help the injured down to BC. A helicopter evacuation from Camp 1 would be extremely difficult due to the thin air. However it has been done before: Beck Weathers was evacuated from Camp 1 in 1996. An air force pilot managed to get the chopper to the top of the icefall, keeping it inches above the ground, and rescue teams got Weathers into the helicopter. It was the highest evacuation ever performed on a mountain by a helicopter.
Image of a helicopter in BC, courtesy of expedition Mallorca al Alt de Tot.