When the ice collapsed into Everest's Khumbu Icefall three days ago, taking the lives of at least 16 Nepali mountaineers, Mike and Matt Moniz were working their way up 26,905-foot Cho Oyu. This would be the first stop on their highly anticipated Triple 8 expedition, which includes summiting Cho Oyu, Everest, and Lhotse. Men's Journal caught up with the father-and-son team by satellite phone.
Mike Moniz told Men's Journal that there are six Sherpas on his team, most from Thame, Nepal – the village hit hardest by the Everest tragedy. "Everyone knows everyone here, and so really, they are all impacted," he says. "The Sherpa in our group specifically have lost a brother-in-law, a cousin, and many friends."
The Sherpas on the south side of Everest, where the accident occurred, have gone home, or at least stopped climbing to observe a period of mourning. "We told the Sherpas, if you need to go home, go home. We understand," says Moniz. But so far the Sherpas on the Moniz team have stayed put and are ready for the ascent of Cho Oyu.
They held their puja yesterday, a traditional ceremony of blessing before a summit bid. Moniz says that despite their small team, it was the longest ceremony he's ever experienced during his multiple expeditions in the Himalayas. "It seemed particularly heartfelt," he says.
The team still plans to make a summit attempt on Cho Oyu, which is little more than 10 miles from Everest as the crow flies, in a mild-weather window from May 4 to 7. They are now acclimatizing and trying not to let what is supposed to be their second 8,000-meter peak – Everest – become too much of a distraction.
"There's a heavy sadness about Everest right now," says Moniz. "And we don't know what the situation will be like in a couple weeks when we're slated to climb it." Reports from veteran climbers who were at Everest at the time of the tragedy indicate that the 2014 Everest climbing season may be over.
"Our first priority is to get up this big mountain in front of us," says Moniz, speaking of Cho Oyu. "Then we'll assess what's going on at Everest. Either way, these are big wild mountains and the Sherpas have the ultimate say."