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Nepal quake: Don't rush to Everest just yet, warn experts

May 04, 2015 13:42 IST

The majestic Mount Everest, the world's tallest peak, holds an intense attraction for climbers and trekkers from across the world.

Perhaps it's these "fatal attractions" that have failed to deter mountaineers -- even for the time being, from continuing to dream of making it to Everest top, despite a slew of avalanches, triggered by the deadly April 25 Nepal temblor, which left 19 climbers, including sherpa mountain guides, dead and several more injured.

With avalanches wiping out all mountaineering treks, base camps and other infrastructures to scale the peak, veteran mountaineers like Bachendri Pal and others have urged co-enthusiasts to put a comma, if not a full stop, to their dreams, not only for their own interest but also for the Sherpa guides.

Mountaineers in this season's expeditions are keen to get back to climbing, say various mountaineering experts and officials. This might be partly, they say due to the big financial commitments required to be undertaken on the part of climbers.

Veterans cite the example of a mountaineering enthusiast couple from Jamshedpur in Jharkhand. Trained and mentored by Bachendri Pal, the first Indian woman who scaled the Everest, the duo's attempt to conquer the peaks last year was thwarted by an avalanche, which killed 13 Sherpas and left three others missing, probably dead.

But that did not deter Pradeep Chandra Sahoo and wife Chetana from making yet another attempt this year, which too ironically met a similar fate with the recent April 25 tragedy jeopardizing it.

"It's a sad situation for mountaineers right now, especially for Indian mountaineers. Many of them take loans from the market or sell off their properties for climbing the Everest because funds and sponsorship for mountaineering is difficult to get," Pal said.

"My personal advice to the mountaineers will be to get down as soon as they can. Lives cannot be risked," Pal said on phone from Jamshedpur.

According to Maninder Kohli, Managing Trustee of Himalayan Environment Trust and an avid mountaineer who has just returned from the Annapurna Trek the Everest expedition is an expensive affair.

"The minimum cost per person is roughly about Rs 40 lakh and includes expenses on sherpas, food, logging, oxygen tanks and other necessities," Kohli said.

Eyewitnesses who were at the base camp when the avalanche hit the mountain have advised climbers to avoid any expedition to the peak at least for the time being.

A 2011-batch Indian Administrative Service officer Ravindra Kumar, an avid mountaineer himself was at Everest Base Camp preparing to climb it for the second time when the avalanche hit. He has urged similar caution for mountaineering buffs.

Posted as an additional district magistrate (ADM), Sikkim, Kumar first climbed Everest in May 2013.

He said from Nepal, "Due to recurring aftershocks, small avalanches are still occurring in the region. Routes are destroyed from both Camp I and Camp II and the path leading to Base Camp. Infrastructure at the Base Camp has been completely destroyed."

The earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale with its epicentre at Lamjung, around 80 km northwest of Kathmandu, has triggered several large avalanches.

One such avalanche originating off the Pumori peak which is just eight kilometres west of Mount Everest, swept through part of the Khumbu Icefall and Everest Base Camp.

The Khumbu icefall, regarded one of the most dangerous stages of the South route to the Everest summit and located at the head of the Khumbu Glacier has been completely destroyed.

"Khumbu icefall located on one of the most treacherous route to the top is completely destroyed. The situation is not so good up there. Re-development of routes to the summit will take time," Kumar said.

Mountaineering veterans have advised their co-enthusiasts to rein in their passions at least for time being also for the sake of the Sherpas and their family members, who have always served as "sarthees" (charioteers) for mountaineers since the days of Tenzing Norgay, who led Edmund Hillary to the peak as the first proud ascender to the Everest.

"Sherpas are the backbone of any expedition. This natural calamity has left them and their families in distress and unstable condition," Bachendri Pal, who also heads Tata Steel Adventure Foundation said.

Sherpas bring in the supply from mainland to camps by yaks. The earthquake and subsequent avalanches have destroyed the navigational routes.

"The families of these brave hearts have been affected. Thinking about them the climbers should not pursue their summit dreams," Pal said.

The routes on these terrains need to re-discovered by the mountaineers and the Sherpas through continues experimentation and manual mapping.

Two mountaineers from Tata steel Adventure Foundation -- Hemant Gupta and Payo Murmur who were recently airlifted by the army from Camp I to the base camp, say climbing routes have been severely affected.

Meanwhile, with the window for reaching the peak set to close soon by the end of May, mountaineers like the Sahoo couple from Jharkhand, along with two climbers from Assam are continuing their wait at Base Camp hoping that the route opens up soon.

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