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ExplorersWeb Week in Review
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May 8, 2005 19: 22 EST
The Everest climbing season has not yet reached the death zone, and already Everest South had a difficult week; two fatalities in three days and a big avalanche wiping out camp 1. In addition, the jet wind is forecasted to return this weekend, sending most climbers down the valleys to recover strength before the summit push.

On a brighter note, a big party on Everest North side and joint rescue efforts on Everest South have brought the international climbers together like never before. And we might have witnessed the highest landing attempt by a chopper ever - right on Everest summit!

Where the eagles fly - Chopper lands on top of Everest? A chopper tried twice to land on top of Everest on May 5 "possibly did land on top, but we couldn't see exactly from 7700m," reported Project Himalaya. "We can't confirm if it did land or not, but it was close, very close!"

Is this the current IAF Everest expedition making waves? Possibly: Last year, on November 2, 2004 an IAF Cheetal Helicopter set a new world record at 0845 hrs by landing at a Density Altitude of 25,150 ft at Saserkangri near Leh. Also in 2004, in rescue missions on May 11, 12 and 13 an IAF Cheetah helicopter landed at an altitude of 23,240 feet on the Kamet glacier in the Garhwal Himalayas to rescue three critically injured climbers.

Everest South: Avalanche in C1! The avalanche struck at 5:15 am, local time. A massive chunk of ice broke loose from a hanging glacier 5,000 feet above the camp, on the West ridge of Everest. Seven people suffered injuries. The snow and the massive wave destroyed most of the tents there (between 30 and 60, depending on the sources). After the avalanche, only 5 tents remained undamaged. 6 climbers were injured.

Alpine Ascents guide Vern Tejas reported that fortunately few climbers were in residence. An American team bore the brunt of the trauma with one Sherpa critically injured. ”Three from New York got raked across the glacier as they tried to flee from their tent. Ironically the whole Iranian Women’s team were spared the destruction by camping slightly farther away from the main camp. They left for camp two without even knowing that the rest of camp was flattened under feet of snow.”

Leipzigers: "Injured people cried to us for help" Reported Olaf, "in the place where the colorful tents of Camp 1 had stood, there was just a flat surface of ice rubble and stones. Among the debris we found three injured climbers. They had sought shelter inside a half wrecked tent, waiting for help.Three other injured climbers cried at us for help. 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." Reports by media and climbers point out a Polish climber without a climbing permit and several climbers from Summit Climb among the injured.

Climbers are currently stabilized and recovering in BC´s HRA clinic. Some of them need to be airlifted to Kathmandu, but poor weather conditions have prevented helicopter flights. "6 climbers wounded," reported BaseCampMD. “Injuries ranged from scratches and bruises to broken feet, broken face and possibly a broken back.

"Reminded of our own mortality" Willi Prittie, senior guide for Alpine Ascents, put the avalanche into a poetic perspective: “After such an incident as yesterday, is when life feels the most precious, the most ‘alive’ if you will, and so it is. The scenery is never better, the air is never fresher, the mountains never clearer, our friends and family never dearer, and the beer never more refreshing than when we are reminded by a close call of our own mortality.”

It was the rescue effort that impressed Willi the most: “It was a heart-warming experience to work with the ad-libbed international team of climbers, guides and Sherpas who made this rescue happen, and happen so quickly. This is the climbing community coming together at its best.”

Second fatality on Everest this spring A few days before the avalanche struck, American Mike O'Brien, 39, slipped and fell to his death in a crevasse in the ice fall. Chris O'Brien, 32, helped recover his brother's body. Mike and Chris were seeking to become the first American brothers to summit Mount Everest together. The brothers - whose mother and sister died from complications from Huntington's disease - were climbing Mount Everest to raise $100,000 for the Hereditary Disease Foundation.

Tribute to Sean Egan in BC A massive puja ceremony was being held in BC as a tribute to Canadian Dr. Sean Egan. 500 climbers and Sherpas planned to take part in the memorial. Egan had been dealing with a pulmonary infection; and started feeling bad on his trip up to C2 two weeks back. He decided to retreat to lower altitudes along with his Sherpa and visit HRA hospital in Periche. Apparently Sean collapsed, probably from cardiac arrest, at the arrival of a rescue helicopter.

Scary moment for Leipzigers w/o O2 Jana got stuck in Camp 1 and had to inject herself with Dexamethasone in order to suppress a developing brain edema. An immediate descent was not possible due to the bad weather.

High-altitude Cocktail of the year: 3 parts Summit Oxygen, 3 parts POISK Choosing the right (read safe) oxygen system is as problematic as always. Jamie’s team seems to have gone for some reduction of risk by mixing the two major brands. “Today we sorted the Summit oxygen, having trouble with fitting the pulse-dose meter on the tanks; they do go on, but not always easily, annoying in such a high-priced system. We discussed various strategies but most involve only one tank for a summit push and so this fitting shouldn't be a problem. Paul, Julian and Moe are using the Summit Oxygen system; Sukhi and the Sherpas are using Poisk, and Jamie is in the middle.”

Martin Minarik unhappy on Everest After having summited Cho Oyu last month, Martin checked in from Everest ABC. “I hope to climb it fast and get the hell out of here. There are one million other places which are more pleasant and less crowded. The summit days are not here yet, but I have close to two liters of brandy so I will just wait.”

Vertical Limit party with a touch of vodka on Everest North side Wild like an episode of Deadwood, the past week was not all gloom and death on Everest. Reported Alex Abramov: "Russell Brice organized a grandiose party. It was under the open Himalayan sky, at the altitude of 5100 meters, in base camp. All members of expeditions (about 100 people) who were in camp gathered for the celebratory evening.

It was very useful. First, all got acquainted, second, all got drunk. The Italians treated us to red wine, in unlimited quantity. As a payback - Andrey Selivanov, the doctor of the expedition, and myself decided to treat all gathered with Russian vodka and sauerkraut. The entertainment was a big success. Even women were on the party, although in a small amount. Although our dialogue with the girls from the other expeditions seemed a bit unwanted by other climbers, the event was first-class, very similar to the scene from the big BC party on K2 in the movie 'Vertical Limit'."

Carlos Pauner: What it takes to climb Everest without O2 Spanish Carlos Pauner main concern right now is the climbing strategy on the summit bid. Exposure will be multiplied for him, compared with those on gas. While in BC, Apa Sherpa came to his tent to greet him. The 14 times summiteer warned Carlos to start really early on the summit day, in order to avoid the jams at the Hillary step. “That’s going to be not so easy. Some of the commercial teams here are considering setting off from Camp 4 at nine pm! That’s very early. I need to have in mind the fact that I am going without O2. I cannot stand the cold during the night hours as well as someone on O2. Each hour out there over 8000m counts.”

Everest Traverse Special - The boy in the bubble The Everest Traverse is the most unusual climb on Everest normal routes this year. The climbers will go up the south side and come down the north. Although there have been a few other traverses on Everest before, this kind of Nepal-Tibet traverse has only been done once. This year, four-time Everest summiteer Luis Benitez and a sherpa will guide Australian Piers Buck on a repeat of the unusual climb.

Diagnosed with severe asthma as a baby, Luis spent his entire childhood in oxygen tents and emergency rooms, downing powerful drugs. Now, at 32, Luis is one of the world’s most busy high altitude mountain guides, holding the record for most consecutive summits of Everest: 4 in 4 years. And he was one of the guides on blind climber Erik Weihenmayer's 2001 summit, documented in the feature film “Farther Than The Eye Can See.” Read the ExWeb special on the young Everest Traverse guide.

Annapurna North: Ed Viesturs and Andrew Lock joining the game The Italians are not alone on the mountain anymore. Besides Abele Blanc and Christian Kuntner, who reached the mountain two weeks ago, two other teams have shown up this week: those led by Ed Viesturs and Australian Andrew Lock.

Ed Viesturs, Abele Blanc and Christian Kuntner aim to complete the final ascent of all the 14th 8000ers on Annapurna. Australian Andrew Lock is going for his 11th 8000er. Ed Viesturs’ climbing team came to BC with photographers, journalists, sponsor representatives and porters. Ed, Veikka and Jimmy arrived by helicopter, together with David Breashears (the “Spielberg of Everest”).

The Italians fought a blizzard and went up to C2, returning to BC that same evening. The wall is overloaded with fresh snow; climbers believe it will take at least three to four days for it to settle. Andrew Lock´s Australian team has progressed fast. According to Mondinelli, they have departed C1 and both teams met in Camp 2.

Annapurna South: Pushing Camp 2 The expedition fixed ropes to the C2 site in the past week. They reported decent weather, and hoped to fix ropes to the major difficulties on the route above Camp 2 by Friday.

Gerfried Göschl summits Shisha Pangma The entire group reached Shisha’s central summit without supplementary oxygen. However, Gerfried was the only one who proceed to the main summit, 8027m. The adventure is over for the team, but not for Gerfried, who is moving to Everest for a no O2 attempt.

Dhaulagiri: 2 Summit pushes aborted Deep snow forced Iñaki Ochoa, Christian Stangl and Pete Guggemos to turn around on their first summit push on Dhaulagiri, at around 7600 m. Already the next day, Iñaki and Christian launched a second speed attempt. After a 16 hours-long summit push, they turned back again, 100 meters shy from the summit - risk of avalanches on the summit ridge was too high. Inaki is still considering a new attempt - the third one - once the snow settles.

Kangchenjunga: Moments of fear on the way to Camp 2 Bad weather and an accident have slowed the team’s route-fixing progress. Team member Hector Ponce fell about 20 meters from a vertical section when they were trying to find the way to C2. Hector was unroped. Luckily, he escaped unharmed, except for some pain in his knee. They pressed on and deposited gear at 6600m for the next team to resume the work, and returned to CI and BC.

Kazakhs Zhumayev and Pivtsov summit Cho Oyu Climbers from Central Sport Club of Kazakhstan Army Maxut Zhumayev and Vassily Pivtsov summited Cho Oyu on May,3.

Makalu West Pillar: Camp 3 set on time to scape from the wind The Spanish climbers have fixed Camp 3 at 7350m on Makalu’s West Pillar. The climbers have not planted the tents though, as high winds - expected for the next days – could blow them away. By May 13th the climbers hope to resume the climb in improved conditions. They are going to need better weather for the crux of the route: The Seigneur wall, a long difficult section at 7600. Once they fix it, they will set C4 at 7800m.

Juan Oiarzabal on Everest commerce: "We are receding instead of evolving!" Kari Kobler's suggestion to fix “Via Ferrata Style” 150mm long “step bolts” on Everest North side infuriated Juanito. “What is happening on Everest is just a reflex of the events taking place in the entire Himalaya. Climbers are not interested in doing new things. Now, except for some cases, all the things done are easier than before. There is yet a lot to do in the Himalaya. It is just that nobody seems interested. I feel I was lucky to have lived in other times, with other attitudes and other ways of climbing. Shame on those who forgot the personal ethic and let themselves go only for the money! It is not Everest that they are selling, it is something else.”

Borneo Base debrief - a great 2005 NP season after all This year, the Borneo Base opened without polar skiers on the ice. The skiers outfitter, Cerpolex, stated that their safety could not be guaranteed. Last week, the season was up and the Borneo base closed the books on this year's drama. Time to check the hard facts: Safe or not? Read the debrief!

ExWeb Arctic Special: Explorers, bears and guns Late evening, March 16, a Polar Race team lived an Arctic expedition's ultimate nightmare: While they were sleeping, a polar bear clawed its way through the flysheet of the tent. The Brit's woke up by the noise just in time, managed to shoot the bear from inside the tent, and had a cup of tea to calm down. A polar skier is pretty defenseless at night. Bundled up tight in sleeping bags, unsupported expeditions keep their guns outside the tent inside a zipped padded holster, to keep the weapon away from the moisture. Read the ExWeb special on polar bear attacks and guns in the Arctic.

Read these stories - and more! - at ExplorersWeb.com

Live image over Contact 3.0 of Everest C1 destroyed by avalanche, courtesy of Alpine Ascents.

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