Climbers are still digging out after a massive earthquake in Nepal triggered several avalanches on Mount Everest that swept into Everest Base Camp at 17,500 feet on what has become the deadliest day on Everest.
"It was like nothing I have ever experienced … we thought it was an avalanche without any sound," climber Raphael Slawinski told Men’s Journal from Advanced Base Camp on the north side of the mountain about 20 miles away. "We could barely stand. After a minute, it stopped. I felt like I had been on the deck of a boat we were tossed around so much."
17-year-old mountaineer Matt Moniz is currently digging out of Everest Base Camp, where the avalanche did the most damage. "We were walking through the middle of camp when we saw the first large slide. We dove behind a rock and covered our faces. The powder blast was moving at 300 kilometers per hour and there were tents and bags flying past us," Moniz told Men's Journal by satellite phone. "Half the camp was blown away. The upper and lower sections of basecamp are unscathed, but in the middle all of the tents are flattened, and there are everything from Apple computers to down suits strung out all over the glacier."
At least seventeen are dead with over sixty injured according to various reports from the mountain. Jagged Globe has said that American Daniel Fredinburg has perished and that more climbers could follow. According to the Associated Press, twenty-two of the worst injured were airlifted to an aid station in Pheriche village, but bad weather hampered rescue efforts. "Everyone in Base Camp did an amazing job with pitching in and working together as a single team to ultimately save a lot of lives," says Moniz. "All of the doctors stayed up all night taking care of the wounded."
More work lies ahead for those on the mountain. "I have talked to people I know over there and they said that over ninety people are trapped above Everest Base Camp in Advanced Camp One and Two while on acclimatization climbs" says Kenton Cool, a long-time Everest guide. Until the pathway through the Khumbu Icefall is examined and rebuilt, they will be staying put. "Camp One and Two are well below the death zone and should be reasonably well stocked," says Cool. "The icefall doctors will be working hard to rebuild the route through Khumbu Icefall knowing there is a storm on the way."
Climber Alex Gavan said on his Facebook page that helicopters are beginning to evacuate climbers from higher on the mountain. If climbers are forced to stay longer than a few days, there is heightened risk for acute mountain sickness and high altitude cerebral and pulmonary edema.
The threat of continued aftershocks also hang over rescue efforts. On Sunday, the destruction in Katmandu worsened with powerful shakes that reverberated on Everest. "We have felt three aftershocks, two of which have been very large and have triggered avalanches and rock fall," says Moniz. "The most recent was thirty minutes ago and triggered another slide off of Pumori. We are still safe."
Whether the climbing season will continue on the south side of the mountain is up in the air while the magnitude of damage is assessed. For now, all focus is on the rescue efforts of a crowded mountain. "This hit at exactly the wrong time," says Cool. "Right now base camp is loaded with people prepping for the spring season. A month earlier or later it would have been a fraction of the population it is now, which is probably close to a thousand people."
To help with the relief effort in Kathmandu, Barpak, and Pokhara, where an estimated 2,152 people are thought dead and hospitals are overwhelmed, you can now donate AmeriCares, Unicef, CARE, Red Cross.