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Cyclone Slams Everest, Team Evacuates Basecamp
Posted on May 27, 2009

Everest Dispatch #89
May 27, 2009
Namche, Nepal

By Dave Hahn

The cyclone pushed us out of Everest Basecamp. Early yesterday morning, it tried to crush us in our tents. Heavy, wet snow was falling at the rate of perhaps three inches per hour. Everything was getting buried fast … tents, yaks, climbing gear. It was tough to tell just how much accumulation there was since the ground is so uneven to begin with at BC, but it was common to be thigh deep while attempting to get from one tent to another. We’d eaten breakfast in our comfy dining tent, insulated from the storm, when Lam Babu suggested (politely) that we think of leaving. It was becoming impossible to maintain the camp in the continuing storm and it didn’t seem farfetched that we’d soon reach a depth of snow in which we could no longer walk to escape down-valley.

Each team member went back to his or her soggy tent for a rushed packing effort. It definitely wasn’t an optimal way for leaving the mountain. Ideally one would like to have everything dry before it gets stuffed and duffled for a trip to Kathmandu. Ideally, it would be great to be standing over an expanse of spread-out gear so as to figure what will be needed on the trek out and what won’t be needed until Kathmandu. Ideally, one would know that the bags were going to get yakked out in the next couple of days … enabling one to make onward travel plans that included said gear. Except there wasn’t time, space or heat for anything like “ideally.” We hunched over in damp tents, pushing damp gear into damp duffle bags and we weren’t so sure when we’d see them again because the last yaks we’d seen fleeing basecamp were in snow up to their horns.

It made good sense to leave anyway, but we determined to do it as a team and to make noon the exit hour. A skeleton crew of Sherpas would remain at the gear dump formally known as Basecamp. At the appointed hour, Seth, Melissa, Kent, Cherie, Jake, Erica, John, Tom, Gerry, Lam Babu, Kaji and a handful of others (it was tough to see who was who with all the matching jackets, hats and goggles in heavily falling snow) followed my lead out of camp. The escape trail was surprisingly well-packed by people and packless animals in the preceding hours. I looked back often through the storm to make sure all were safely in the parade behind me, and I tried not to stop. We meant to go five hours down to Pheriche, but that depended on everybody staying strong and not rolling an ankle or knee in the powder.

It all went fine as we trudged down through the landmark villages of our long-ago trek in; Gorak Shep, Lobuche, Thukla … and finally Pheriche … all in much whiter condition than we’d seen them seven weeks ago. In Pheriche, we walked out of the storm to experience the novel INDOOR comfort of Nuru’s Himalayan Hotel. Long-forgotten appetites came back, coughs mellowed in the marvelously humid air, and real sleep was had by all … 14,000 ft sleep, not the 17,500 ft version that we’d been calling sleep for so long.

And today dawned without much sign of the cyclone. The sky was blue again and the mountains were white again. We hit the trail and within a short time we were actually out of the snow and onto the dirt. Then there were trees … then green trees. And next there were flowers … and flowers in trees. The rhododendrons of Deboche and Thyangboche Hill were in bloom and beautiful. We walked up hills and down hills and along hills until we reached good old Namche Bazaar. Civilization as we know it … with internet and commerce and tourism and comfort at the easy to love altitude of around 11,500 ft. In two days, we’d come down what had taken us approximately 8 days to go up … long ago… in the Spring, when we were younger.

We’ll walk to Lukla tomorrow and we will begin hoping for cloudless flying weather which might get us to Kathmandu sooner. And we’ll just hope that our wet duffels find us before the contents rot. Life is not, by any means, trouble-free as yet but it is sure getting easier.

Author: - Wednesday, May 27th, 2009
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  1. DD

    Brilliant work everyone. Not to worry, I think N.F. will be able to get you some fresh gear if you need it.
    Endulge in drink, hot running water, real sleep, air, or even smelling the flowers.
    Safe travels home over the next few days.
    Thanks for the post!
    GL & GS

  2. Erika Whittaker

    Thank you Dave. So good to hear from you.
    Hope you get to Kathmandu without delays.

  3. robjames

    Typical A-type Western siege-style persona.

    Pay the Sherpa a pittence to risk themselves to stay behind and clean up all your crap as bad-arse weather smashes in.

    Some of us show enough honour and respect to these mountain men, women and their families to help get the job done in solidarity – even when we ‘pay’ for it.

    You find time and cash to write about it – how ’bout actually doing the work?

  4. T-Dawg

    Glad to hear you and the rest of the team made it back to civilization, Dave. How have the FA duffels been holding up? Are you and the rest of the team anxious to get home? At least Kathmandu is around the corner and then the good ol’ U.S.A. and American food!

  5. 2stepbay

    >A skeleton crew of Sherpas would remain at the gear dump formally known as Basecamp.

    Not a good way to end this adventure. Seems Sagarmatha had had enough of foreign visitors. Who thought it a good idea to linger knowing a cyclone was on the way? Lucky the mountain was in a compassionate mood to allow such a late exit.

    Sadly, I agree with RobJames about the A-type Western siege-style persona. Will foreign climbers ever learn this lesson?

  6. milesofsmiles

    Bravo and congradulations to the “Team”!
    Save journeys home and enjoy your ventures on the path!
    I look forward to hearing the conclusions of the travels! Prost!

  7. doverpro

    Great trip and blog, thanks guys.

  8. bgallagher

    Great Adventure Dave. Thank you for writing about your trip! The Sherpa did a great job and they deserve a bonus, as they delivered exactly what they promised, “Two summits of the world’s highest mountain”. I’ll bet they get all the EB gear they are packing off the mountain and anyone who critisizes their purpose doesn’t understand that this is how they support their families.
    Do we get a video interveiw when the team returns to USA?

    BG

  9. Grizmtn

    Wonderful update. I’ve been missing my morning dose of adventure from my cushy armchair. Safe travels and please post some more of your back to civilization impressions. A-type western siege-style persona’s? What envy laden prima donna world does that comment come from.

  10. joegriffith

    Thanks again for the update, Dave. From our warm and springy Durango we do look forward to hearing how the trip ends, and to more of the story when you get home.

  11. nancy.janosko

    WOW…”robjames” and “2stepbay” what is a “typical a-type western siege-style persona” anyway????? by reading both of your entries sounds like maybe you have the “attack, holier than thou, a s s-type persona”…. hmmmm…
    pick up love…love saves the day…

  12. doverpro

    Mallory and Irvine used O2 in 1924; were they wimps? Hillary and Norgay used O2 were they wimps? Rob James or whatever your real name is: maybe you should watch several posts back when the guides got there butts chewed out by the Sherpas for carrying their loads thus taking money out of their pockets that feed several families. Cheers to the moderators for not responding to you. Please 13 year old troll go away and leave these real, brave men alone. Your criticism is childish.

  13. petekaplan

    I’m still thinking about Erika, how disappointed she must be for not making it to the summit. I think she would have made it if she had a little bit more encouragement from …… I hope she at least get’s a rebate.

  14. robjames

    It’s indefensible. You see nasty weather smashing in. You bail. Paying others a pittence to stay behind and clean-up all your garbage. Previous Whittaker XPD’s (from the earliest days) left garbage all over the Mtn.
    Least this trip has evolved (albeit only slightly). Though it’s overt the employees of such throwing their bit in on this grand forum have much to catch and read up on. There’s too much tinsel on this site. I encourage you all to read widely before forming any opinions. Maybe even get up on the Big E and take a peak for yourself.

  15. sunis

    I think Erica should be proud of what she did accomplish, and not ever feel like she fell short, the only dissapointment is peoples negative outlooks, let it go.

  16. Barbara Dobbyn

    I for one am very proud of Erica for having the courage to make the right decision for herself, even knowing that so many people were watching and knowing that some people would inevitably judge her harshly for her choice.

    The reality is many people have died on Mt. Everest because they overestimated their skill level or ignored the environment. If there is anything that I am sure of, it is that Mt. Everest will still be there when Erica is ready to tackle it on her own terms. At 17 I was home dreaming other peoples dreams. Erica is living the adventure.

    I also beleive, in the great outdoors, it would have been irresponsible for someone to have pushed her into something she didn’t feel as prepared for as she thought she was. Good to the rest of the team for respecting her decision.

    I’m glad that everyone is returning safe and sound.

    For my two cents: I am sure the Sherpa have more experience traversing that mountain in all conditions than any visitor will ever have.

  17. Ahelsing

    Great job all of you and thanks for the excellent blog. It has been great following you.

  18. T-Dawg

    Erica is one brave young lady! She made a decision not to continue and thus prevented possible danger later on. You must be 110% committed attempting a challenge like Mt. Everest. The guides can only motivate so much or so far. So, knock off the shoulda, coulda, wouldas. She did GREAT!!

  19. T-Dawg

    You can not stop the power of First Ascent, nor the Legend of Eddie Bauer! Rob James, I detect fear in your blogs as to how these legendary mountaineers, combined with a legendary company as Eddie Bauer equaled a triumphant summit to the highest peak in the world. Curious as I once saw one of your past blogs had a Patagonia attachment to it. Tinsel, I think not. Pride, and inspiration, definitely!

  20. petekaplan

    “I think Erica should be proud of what she did accomplish, and not ever feel like she fell short, the only dissapointment is peoples negative outlooks, let it go.”

    If she had that kind of attitude she would have never tried to climb a mountain in the first place. Of course she fell short, she didn’t make it to the top, and it could be decades before she get’s another chance.


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