Website- Peak Freak Expeditions

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Nepal Avalanche Hazards- To climb or not to climb?

We are getting asked this question as result of the recent avalanche that has taken life once again in the Himalayas. The answer to that would be that a professional guide outfitter is paid to manage risk and should have all the expertise to back their decision making and make a call to the best of their educated knowledge. We saw this cyclone coming. We wonder if the people in this incident did?

We weren't there and don't have all the details on the situation that these people were in and our heart felt condolences go out to their families. It's a sad sad day. I pray for all those lost in this tragic cyclone event both on and off the mountains and other parts of the world that are experiencing the same thing right now. Global Warming is real, it's here and it's now, and people around the world are living the nightmare.

Last season we were in this situation and responded accordingly. Another non-seasonal cyclone hit the region the exact same day as this year, it covered the mountains in the Khumbu region where our team is right now. Usually we deal with cyclone events formed in the Bay of Bengal in the spring, rarely do they come in the autumn.  Last October we had three peaks to climb on our schedule with both climbers and a group of trekkers. We waited and we watched for two of the three peaks to shed and become stable before climbing. The third peak we cancelled altogether without hesitation.

In both scenarios the first thing a guide would do is pay very careful attention to the accumulation of snow, wind loading the slopes, terrain, and temperatures. Most importantly after the storm, the guide would make close observations on the shedding of the snow load and temperatures before moving up or down, and especially under exposed areas or tight areas. Tim says from what he sees in the footage on the Nepalese televisions there was an accumulation of about 2 feet of snow that would definitely warrant staying put.

When a climber or trekker joins a professionally organized expedition with experience in avalanche evaluation and risk management, potential hazards are addressed on the information provided to the customer- stating that the outfitter reserves the right to change, alter modify and cancel an expedition for many reasons, and especially a snow storm that makes passage very dangerous. We've done exactly this on several occasions. You have to - it's the mountains! They are constantly changing and so should we.

We aren't seeing the snow loads in the Khumbu where our team is right now. However things can change and so will our itineraries if needed to keep everyone safe.

Buyer beware! There is an abundance of amateur- uneducated -operators working in avalanche risks  areas in the Himalayas. The Nepalese government and industry has been sadly damaged the past few years by loss of life and misinformation and they are working hard to make it harder for just anyone to guide people in the Himalayas.  Thank- goodness!!

One of the main components on our "Triple Crown" Everest Training Climb taking place right now, is a section on Avalanche Awareness and Safety Skills. Tim is a professional member of the Canadian Avalanche Association here in Canada and shares his knowledge to both our Sherpa staff and our participants. Far too many people climb in the Himalayas with guides of all walks without even thinking about getting this valuable and life-saving education beforehand for themselves, and instead rely on the guide-outfitter to make the sole decision on their behalf. We urge anyone going into any uncontrolled snow environment to take a course. We can't express this enough - take our course! do it for your family! avalanches aren't going away.

Becky Rippel
Peak Freaks

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