Website- Peak Freak Expeditions

Monday, 28 April 2014

Debriefing April 18th 2014' Everest Avalanche

Something was just brought to my attention in a phone call from Tim. At the moment, he is frantically following behind his team to make sure their expedition bags arrive in Kathmandu close to the same time as they do for their homeward journey—forever ticking off his responsibilities to his team to get them home safely.

After dealing with understandably disappointed clients and sharing their heartbreak for the past few days,Tim had a chance to look at the big picture while walking out of the valley quietly with Ang Karsung Sherpa's son, Sonam, the promising next generation for tourism in Nepal.

When Tim arrived in Namche Bazaar tonight (Nepal Time), he was caught off guard when lodge owner Tsedam Sherpa told him that the Sherpa community applaud him. We didn't even get into "for what?". Instead Tim told me something that what was upsetting him, the “what could have been”

I don't think this part of the story, the "what could have been", got the attention it should have. In an earlier post, we stated that there were more than 100 Sherpa guides who narrowly missed the avalanche. In one hit, the avalanche could have wiped out one third of the guiding Sherpas' population. Tim told me that had the avalanche been half an hour earlier, they would all be dead. When you consider it, this is a chilling fact. 
Thirty minutes earlier and more than 100 Sherpa guides would have died.

The scenario was that the route had just been completed by the icefall doctors with ladders and ropes through the difficult section, the ice fall. The teams were all gathered at base camp so the rush was on to do their work. All the equipment had arrived at base camp, this was the day for lots of movement on the route. Camp 2 is essentially another base camp, plus oxygen supplements and rope in addition to the normal provisions. This equipment is not moved by yaks, the manual labour at this stage of the climb is significant. The bulk of the loads had just been dropped off. Our Tashi and Palden Sherpa, who were turning to go back down, were very close to the avalanche path, so were more than100 others. 

In 2012, a similar scenario occured where a large avalanche came off Nuptse—the other side of the icefall from this one. As with this recent avalanche, more than 100 Sherpas and western climbers on the other side, at Camp 2, narrowly missed being struck by the avalanche. The impact of the 2012 avalanche blew a Sherpa into a crevasse. Thankfully he survived and was rescued. Tim recalls he was worried when the 2012 avalanche hit because one of our climbers, Travis McPhee from Canmore, was not feeling well and had turned around. Travis was just approaching his tent when the avalanche hit and managed to get inside to retreat from the big cloud that could have suffocated him. 

It is easy to get wrapped up in the hype and politics of a disaster but it is equally if not more important to reflect on what could have been and all that it means. It may not seem respectful to the victims of the avalanche, their families, or even the climbers whose dreams have been brought to such a sudden conclusion, that we were lucky, and yet, knowing what could have been, lucky is what we were. 

I told Tim this story needs told with a bit more bold. 

Becky & Tim Rippel


  1. 'what could have been', indeed.

  2. An interesting perspective. Glad you and your team are safe Tim.

  3. An interesting perspective. Glad you and your team are safe Tim.

  4. Tim, life has its extreme difficulties, there is no question. Tragedy brings us deep sorrow and disbelief, but Tim, in these unspeakable events, ones mind will drift to the " what could have been" and it is their that the event can claim even more lives. It is so very important to remember those that were lost, equally it is important to remember what happened so we may learn. Tim my friend, I lost a year of my life because the "what could have been" haunted my every thought, it took me away from those I loved and brought me to me knees. Then, a year after the accident, I was sitting at a stop light, my life now in ruins when it came to me. like a beacon of light shining from the sky. it's not the "what could have been" where we find comfort and healing, its the "what was" where it lay.Remember those that were lost, do not morn those that survived, from the world would be a dark place if our thoughts dwelled on "what cold have been" my friend, as there is no end to the dark imagination that can bring.
    may this message find you and Becky with the sincerity of friendship it is written with.

  5. Dear Peak Freaks,
    No doubt, it is a tragedy what happened on Everest this year.
    But live cannot be 100% risk free. We take calculated risks every day.
    When crossing a steet we can get run over. Still, we go.
    When taking a plane, it can crash. Even after MH370 disappreared, we still fly.
    And when we go skiing or climbing we can get hit by an avalange or develop HAPE. We know that. You, as expedition leaders, know that, and the Sherpa know that as well. Don't complain afterwards! Mourn about the lost friends, and then reassess whether you are still willing to take the risks that climbing has. If the answer is “No.”, then get lost from the mountains.
    The icefall is not more dangerous this year than it has been in the previous years. It is you – and quite a few Sherpa that accumulated a relative wealth compared to their fellow country man – who are not willing to take the risks that you are paid for any more. This – in my humble opinion – is betrayal of your clients.

  6. The world needs people like Tim Rippel others like him. I however would like to see leaders in that mould take on the inept and nearly criminal attitude of current world leaders to the most dangerous crisis facing our planet; Climate Change. Tim, have you read the book The Truth by Al Gore? You probably have. It's time for you and people like you to lead not the fortunate few up Everest but humanity itself back to a sustainable future.