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everest avalanche

i read this morning that a large number of Sherpa guides were killed while fixing ropes just below Camp 2.  it was the worst climbing incident, in terms of loss of life, in the mountain's long history.  will be interesting to see whether this attracts as much attention as the 'into thin air' situation.  with the primary people involved being local guides, perhaps not.  it would be a shame, considering they were out there making sure that oxygen-challenged westerners could haul their way up the ropes.


Terrible story.  And I agree with you comments!

I agree - it's a bad accident.

However, the 'into thin air' (1996 Everest) situation was different - not an accident from an objective hazard (rockfall, avalanche) but the result of a bunch of poor decisions and crowd-created problems (bottlenecks on route, not turning back in time, etc.). There's a lot more 'story material' in a human-created disaster vs something 'natural' like an avalanche.

Still, I hope there is a lot of discussion in the media (and online) about the ethics of rich 'climbers' and the choices that poor Nepalis choose to make in the mountain business.

Hopefully, it will lead to better pay and better insurance for the Sherpas who put up the handrails for the Everest tourists.

As many of you know, I am on the Board of Directors of the American Climber Science Program, and are aware that we have a team heading up Lhotse (neighboring peak to Everest). You can see our Facebook page. I am sad to report that  Asma, one of our team, was one of the victims. The rest of the team is ok.

Sorry to hear about this. From what I saw on the news, the avalanche was huge and given where and when it happened, the chance of survival was pretty slim.

Bill, I'm sorry for the loss of your team member. My condolences to his family and to all the families of the victims. The Sherpas are paid to do this work of fixing ropes and hauling gear. No one, no Everest climber, nor the media that reports on them, should forget that when they stand on the summit of the world's highest mountain, they are standing on the shoulders of hundreds of others, past and present. It is not a solo pursuit. We should thank them for their sacrifice.

So far, I've noted coverage to be respectful.

Many prople have asked me about my Sherpa friends. I let them know mine are safe because mine are trekking sherpas not climbing. But this awful thing is bringing attention to sherpa life and how little their families get in terms of benefits upon death. Ifo not begrudge any culture who wants to pursue any endevour. This was not an avalanche, it was an Ice fall. When I was there two years ago we did have an avalanche in the same area. And not long after we left there was another one that blew discovery out of camp and resulted in Russell Brice abandoning his whole expedition. Last year was record number if attempts as a result if 2012 disasters and high number of deaths bringing news to the average person.

Workplace hazards

These poor souls are lost to the hazards of earning a living in their society.  So are commuters in bad traffic accidents.  Both are tragic.  It is curious how different cultures come to terms with what they think are risks that are inherently necessary to making a living.  I am trying to imagine what this means in their cultural perspectives.  We all feel for the families, that is for sure.


The current Sherpa death compensation is $400 supposedly.  I hear that the Sherpas are currently fighting to raise that fee to $10,000.  I have no knowledge of Nepal's economy, but $400 sure sounds low when you're risking your life fixing ropes.

macchiolives said:

The current Sherpa death compensation is $400 supposedly.  I hear that the Sherpas are currently fighting to raise that fee to $10,000.  I have no knowledge of Nepal's economy, but $400 sure sounds low when you're risking your life fixing ropes.

 No, it is already 10k. The $400 was an immediate burial benefit. It had been 4k but was raised in 2013  prior to the start of this climbing season to 10k. The average Nepali makes $500.00 a year US. From Alan Arnette:


Right now, the Sherpa are making demands and whether those are met will determine if the 2014 climbing season ends or continues. here are their demands:

he Ministry of Tourism had previously announced an immediate payment of $400 to cover burial expenses for each family of the Sherpa victims. For 2014, life insurance for each Sherpa was increased to US $10,000 from $4,000. The Nepal government collected US $3,107,700 for the Everest 2104 season.

Multiple funds have been established to accept donations supporting the Sherpa families.

Sherpa Demands

The demands from the Sherpas are wide ranging and include:

• Increment of immediate relief announced for avalanche victims

• Provide Rs 10 million (US$103,590)  each to families of deceased

• Set up a memorial park in the name of the deceased in Kathmandu

• Cover all expenses for treatment of the injured

• Provide Rs 10 million (US$103,590) to critically hurt who cannot rejoin mountaineering activities

• Set up mountaineering relief fund with 30 per cent of royalty collected from issuing permits to different mountains (est $1M for 2014)

• Double the insurance amount to the mountaineering workers

• Provide additional chopper rescue to mountaineering support staff if insurance fails to cover the cost

• Provide perks and salaries, except summit bonus, through concerned agencies to Sherpas if they want to call off climbing this season

• Manage chopper to bring logistics and equipment from different camps if mountaineers decide to abandon climbing this season

• Don’t take action against SPCC icefall doctors if they refuse to fix ropes and ladders on the route this season

• Let the expedition members to call off this season’s climbing if they wish so

I got the list from Alan Arnette's blog. It is worth going to it and reading more. As he points out, none of the above will save lives...and the ideas generated for reducing the death toll is really a matter of reducing the number of people on the mountain and that costs a starving nation a lot of money.

I was reading on the Jagged Globe blog and this exceprt struck me:

It remains unclear if the climbing season will be able to continue. The SPCC 'Icefall Doctors' have not decided yet if they are prepared to keep working to maintain the route between Base Camp and Camp 2. If there is a general consensus among the Sherpas in Base Camp to continue climbing them the SPCC workforce will probably fall into line with this. It is now certain that at least one large team will announce that they are abandoning their expedition within the next 24 hrs (I will leave them to make this news public). Other major teams may follow. This could create a situation that there are not sufficient experienced Sherpas in Base Camp to open the route from Camp 2 to the Summit. Even if several of the major teams choose to remain and climb it is possible that their Sherpa workforces will be greatly reduced and they may mot have the manpower to continue the climb within acceptable safety limits.

Now. there is nothing new there, nothing many have not already said. But if these Sherpa pull out, no climbing. So if it is really that impossible for anyone to climb without the Sherpa installing the route.....Reinhold Messner was right and this proves it.


some expeditions already cancelled. 

Today one of the biggies will announce out...then the dominos may just all fall.

All donations to the American Climber Science Program for the next two weeks will be going directly to the family of Asman Thamang, the Sherpa on our team who was killed in the avalanche. He left behind a wife and 9 month old daughter. On the page that comes up, click on "Donate" at the top of the column on the left. The donations are handled by PayPal. The ACSP is a 501c3 organization (I believe the processing of the application is complete), so your donations should be deductible.

At this point, it is uncertain whether our expedition will continue.

The ACSP Facebook page is here.

Bill S said:

All donations to the American Climber Science Program for the next two weeks will be going directly to the family of Asman Thamang, the Sherpa on our team who was killed in the avalanche. He left behind a wife and 9 month old daughter. On the page that comes up, click on "Donate" at the top of the column on the left. The donations are handled by PayPal. The ACSP is a 501c3 organization (I believe the processing of the application is complete), so your donations should be deductible.

At this point, it is uncertain whether our expedition will continue.

The ACSP Facebook page is here.

 Many people here helped with my Mane Power Project. I will help here for your guy!!

I just read the whole season has been abandoned.  They stated the reason was mostly out of respect for their fallen brothers.

As of today, Alpine Ascents and Adventure consultants cancelled, but the whole south side is not yet abandoned. Between them they lost 5 Sherpa. A meeting will be held in Kathmandu Wednesday April 23, perhaps with Nepal’s Prime Minister, to address the Sherpa concerns with an objective of bringing a signed agreement back to EBC so the Sherpa can make an informed decision on continuing the season. So not over yet. Alan Arnet says:

"I’m told that no decision has been made by the greater Sherpa community at EBC nor from the Ministry of Tourism thus contradicting major news media reports. This information is first hand from people there and owners of major guide companies." So he is relying on people who are there, telling him what is going on in real time.

On the North side climbing continues and there will be summits from the North this year.

I guess we have to see if that guy talks for those at camp talking to Alan who says it isn't done yet. I hope whatever they decide, something good can come out of this.

Not that it's a pleasant thing to discuss, but I've been pleasantly surprised to see a large amount of national coverage on this topic here in the States. I've seen/heard this topic on everything from the splashy Yahoo News site to numerous newspapers, the AP and NPR. From what I've seen most the coverage has been tasteful and respectful. I guess Everest has a way to unite people the world over. I just hope the world unites to support the families of those lost.

Unfortunately, that coverage outside the climbing community is filled with misunderstanding and error with what is going on in at EBC. You are right though, kiwi....perhaps the coverage will hit on the donation opportunities to help the families. All the trekking companies are linking to donation sites as well. It is amazing how sacrificing even a few latte's can make a HUGE difference in the life of a Napali...we raised $2,500.00 which put electricity into 5 homes!

Well there it is. IMG has announced out. They stated that talks had broken down with them and the Ice Fall "Ice Doctors" Sherpa will not go in and repair the damage done by the fall. Ropes and ladders would need to be affixed and they are not going to do it. Since promised officials from the government never actually showed up, Sherpa are not very trusting of the government going forward. Appears this is mostly being driven by a few young loud climbing Sherpa (some moaists threatening other Sherpa if they do not go along)  and not the overall feeling of the Sherpa community on the mountain.  So with IMG out and Alpenglow telling its people not to come and time for acclimatization ticking away. This year on the south appears to be a bust as Jeff noted above. It could still be climbed from the south but the massive number of Sherpa needed to make that possible is not available since IMG is gone and provided the lion's share of Sherpa.


So...this season is left with many Sherpa not knowing if they will get any money since their pay is most often based on per day or per trip wages. Clients get no refunds. Most money they pay is spent up front, so their 30, 40, 50, 60 thousand bux is G-O-N-E- Gone. (If they failed to buy trip cancelation insurance, shame on them. I have no sympathy.)


Trips in future years may cost more. One of the things discussed and it appears accepted is that people will be flown from BC to camp above the ice fall.  Fewer sherpas needed because of that and higher costs may deter climbers as well. Also, though the North is still operational, they Sherpa could determine not to proceed there as well.


Saw news today that a second avalanche has occurred, ensuring no one is going up.

Here's a neat way for people to help out. 

Some professional photographers are donating their Everest/Nepal photos. For $100, you can own one of these fantastic prints.

50% of the proceeds go directly to the families who lost their loved ones. 50% go toward long-term community assistance.

Here is a photo of our team member, Asman Thamang, who died in the avalanche:


To give you a bit of insight on the American Climber Science Team (a 401c3 organization) and our research project in the Everest Region, here is a link to the expedition plan.

The latest report from our team, the American Climber Science Program, is as follows:

The situation at Everest Base Camp.

As violence begins, it is wise to reflect on how things have spiraled out of control. A few days ago, the entire EBC had a huge Puja to mourn the dead and purify ourselves for the coming climbing season. It was a wonderful time of renewal when the Western climbers and Sherpas all embraced and gave many eulogies in English and Nepalese. We all lost friends and companions of many years and were shell-shocked for days afterwards. It was one of the worst catastrophes in mountaineering history and we each felt it acutely and the shared feelings brought us closer as a community - or so we thought.
But then, at the end of this time of sharing and closeness, out of the blue a Maoist politician said 'then it is a agreed, we will remove the equipment from the Icefall and no one will climb'. Most of us looked at each other in confusion and then mild anger. One climber had the courage to ask the speaker - 'is this in sorrow for the lost lives or in anger at the government'. The speaker replied that it was 'in sorrow for the lost lives because the government won't meet our demands'.
That was the moment that we climbers realized that we had become nothing more than pawns for a few individuals seeking power among the Sherpas and all of our old relationships were being sacrificed for politics. And when I say Sherpas, I mean Sherpas - not Nepalis. In addition to the Sherpa government struggle, a second struggle has emerged between the Sherpas and the Thamang and Rai and other ethnic groups from the middle hills who are flocking into the Khumbu region filling the jobs that the Sherpas once dominated.
The government won't give anything to the Sherpas. Residual ill feelings from the strong Sherpa support for the Maoists during the Civil War means the government has no desire to compromise. And of course the money that has already flowed into so many governmental pockets cannot be disgorged.
But neither side is pure - during the Puja, I watched leaders among the Sherpas distributing money intended for the victims of the avalanche among themselves. The Lama who is on our climbing team and led the EBC Puja rejected the 'gift' in disgust. The central Sherpa demand of a fund for future victims is a noble thought, but the reality is that it likely will merely become another avenue for corruption.
The current situation is that those westerners who are rich enough are flying out in convoys of helicopters. On the ACSP team, we have one student, two people who quit their jobs for this expedition, and an engineer who is between jobs. We have put every dime we have into this research effort and there is no 'next year'. We are almost certainly the only non-profit group on the mountain. We have nowhere to go and so we remain and collect data. We will climb if we are allowed.
But will we be allowed? The government has said the mountain is open and has refused refunds. The Icefall Doctors will lose their government contract if they fail to keep the way open. But they, and worse, their families in distant villages, have received death threats if they work on the Icefall. Nepalis who have said they will work with the remaining expeditions have been beaten. Western guides have been threatened by gangs, but no one has been injured yet.
The Sherpas are attacking the people who should be their closest friends. We share the brotherhood of the mountains and loved each other for many years. But for the sake of the political ambitions of a few - masked under the rhetoric of tragedy - all of those relationships are being destroyed. Most of the people I have talked to here will never return to Nepal to climb. People have lost up to $80,000 with no possibility of refund and this risk will not diminish in the near future.
For now, we wait. We are creating alliances between people who cannot afford to sacrifice the ten's of thousands of dollars it took to get here - Soldiers for the Summit, a Russian team, a Chinese team - and perhaps as part of a consortium, the ACSP will be allowed to climb and gather the data that will help us better understand glacier dynamics and hopefully avert future tragedy.
The dreadful loss on the mountain has become a tool for petty politics and so for now, all we can do is wait.



G00SE said:

Saw news today that a second avalanche has occurred, ensuring no one is going up.

 It really isn't about the avalanche in the end:

Latest Everest News – April 27/28, 2014

  • 100 climbers on Everest’s North side
  • Climbing continues unaffected from Tibet and on Cho Oyu, Makalu, Shishapangma and Annapurna
  • Helicopters used to ferry Sherpa into Western Cwm to take down camps
  • Gear was packed and stored at Camp 2 for next season – never done like this before
  • 3 smaller teams remain at EBC hoping for a chance
  • More reports are coming out demanding investigation into Maoists backed disruptive sources at EBC
  • It’s becoming very clear a few Sherpa not associated with any major teams created the disruption and used the deaths of their fellow Sherpa for their own private agenda.

These are not linked, but google these funds if you care to donate:

Donations for families of Sherpa killed in serac fall:

Also. Sunday at 9 PM on Discovery there is a special that will be completely about the Ice fall and the rescue/recovery.

List of the dead of 2014. (Note the first death was HAPE)

16 Confirmed deaths

  1. Mingma Tenzing Sherpa Peak Freaks, died from HAPE
  2. Mingma Nuru Sherpa, , Shangrila Nepal on NBC Everest Expedition, died from avalanche into Khumbu Icefall
  3. Dorji Sherpa, Shangrila Nepal on NBC Everest Expedition, died from avalanche into Khumbu Icefall
  4. Ang Tshiri Sherpa, Shangrila Nepal on AAI Everest Expedition, died from avalanche into Khumbu Icefall
  5. Nima Sherpa, Shangrila Nepal on AAI Everest Expedition,  died from avalanche into Khumbu Icefall
  6. Phurba Ongyal Sherpa, Adventure Consultants, died from avalanche into Khumbu Icefall
  7. Lakpa Tenjing Sherpa, Adventure Consultants, died from avalanche into Khumbu Icefall
  8. Chhiring Ongchu Sherpa, Adventure Consultants, died from avalanche into Khumbu Icefall
  9. Dorjee Khatri, Adventurist Everest, died from avalanche into Khumbu Icefall
  10. Dorjee Sherpa, Adventurist Everest, died from avalanche into Khumbu Icefall
  11. Phur Temba Sherpa, Adventurist Everest, died from avalanche into Khumbu Icefall
  12. Pasang Karma Sherpa from Juving Solukhumbu, Jagged Globe,died from avalanche into Khumbu Icefall
  13. Asman Tamang, Himalayan Ecstasy Lhotse,  died from avalanche into Khumbu Icefall
  14. Ankaji Sherpa, Everest Chinese Dream Expedition, from avalanche into Khumbu Icefall
  15. Ash Bahadur Gurung, Everest Chinese Dream Expedition,  from avalanche into Khumbu Icefall

Missing – Unknown status

  1. Tenzing Chottar Sherpa, Shangrila Nepal on AAI Everest Expedition,  from avalanche into Khumbu Icefall
  2. Pem Tenji Sherpa, Everest Chinese Dream Expedition, from avalanche into Khumbu Icefall

I gleaned this too, because these avalanches and ice falls are not rare in the least. I would listen to them while sitting on the glacier and we even saw a big one from base camp. Additionally, the Ice Doctors are working every day to fix what falls from the night before have done:

"News reports made the April 18 avalanche sound like a freak occurrence. The New York Times wrote, “They creep one by one across ladders propped over crevasses, burdened with food and supplies, all the while watching the great wall of a hanging glacier, hoping that this season will not be the year it falls.”

In fact, this hanging glacier on Everest’s West Shoulder calves daily, and everybody is terrified of its regular releases. In 2012, members of a National Geographic/North Face expedition took to calling it “the Fangs,” while an Eddie Bauer group I was living with at base camp called it “the Horseshoe.” That same year, Russell Brice, a New Zealander who owns and runs Himalayan Experience, decided to call off his expedition in part because of this same hanging glacier. I happened to be walking by as he stood on the helipad with clients who were questioning his decision.

“We’re climbers, we’re used to taking risks,” they said.

Brice pointed to the hanging glacier and said, “That’s what I’m worried about.”

Schaffer, senior editor at Outside magazine, wrote “The Disposable Man: A Western History of Sherpas on Everest” in the August issue. Since this month’s avalanche, he has been working with the Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation to raise money for the Sherpa community through the sale of Everest photographs."


This is the avalanche of 2012 that happened at the same place when I was there in 2012.




This is why I hate when mainstream media reports on things like Everest. They don't know what they are talking about and things get misreported.

Helicopters have been a constant presence, breaking the beautiful silence that lovers of the mountains treasure.

Helicopters are always flying up there. It isn't any different this year other than the evacuation of the bodies.

But support for this season's climb has trickled away, day after day, since the April 18 avalanche that left 13 guides dead and three missing -- the deadliest accident in the history of the world's highest peak.

Support didn't trickle away, threats from Maoist Sherpa (a small number) coerced Sherpa not to work in the ice fall and scared western climbers that if they went above the ice fall, the Maoists would sabotage the return trip by removing ladders and ropes and stranding them. When the Sherpa died, nearly every expedition told their Sherpa they could leave if they like and so pretty fast those who were unwilling to climb because of the deaths were gone and there was plenty of support left on the mountain to continue. What ended the season was the voices of a very few dastardly men who would imperil everyone for their own gain. Even stealing money intended for the families of Sherpa.

This is going to change Everest for ever. Some will be happy. But the economy of the Solukhumbu is going to take a hit. The very people in the article that talk about Sherpa now owning tea houses and doing other jobs will find that there is far less business in the coming years. When I was there, entire Bavarian villages were arriving at base camp to deposit their native sons for the climb. Tea houses were overflowing with people headed to see what base camp was like. No climbers and I predict the trekking will fall off sharply as well. Tea houses will struggle as a result.

Everest has always been a very big part of my life as I followed it from the time I was a child. Going to see the big mountain and the people of the Himalaya is like a pilgrimage to Mecca for me. I am devastated by the loss of life there this year and fear the worst for my Sherpa friends and their families going forward.

October 25, 2020
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