Uncertainty looms large on Mount Everest

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Kathmandu, April 27 (IANS) After the 2014 fatal avalanche that forced high-altitude guides to abandon Everest ascents that year, uncertainty looms over the prospects of any expedition up the world’s highest peak this season also.

Mountaineering officials here said 20 climbers have already died as of Monday in the series of avalanches that swept the Everest Base Camp and other areas — and this season is now one of uncertainty.

Two massive avalanches on Saturday and Sunday, triggered by the powerful earthquake, swept away climbing ropes and ladders, including tents on the Base Camp.

The Department of Tourism said at least 20 people have been killed on the mountain and over 60 have been reported injured. The department said the exact number of casualties is yet to be ascertained.

Choppers have rescued stranded climbers and guides from Camp 1 and 2.

“We cannot predict anything at the moment. The expeditions are now up in the air,” said Mingma Sherpa, the managing director of Seven Summit Treks.

Almost all climbers and high-altitude guides, including icefall doctors who fix the ladders and ropes and prepare routes to the Everest summit, have descended from Base Camp due to the potential of further avalanches.

On Monday, Alex Gavan, a climber, tweeted from the Base Camp: “Some teams have already left the place, their camps being completely destroyed. Some people are even sleeping with helmets and boots on.”

Kapindra Rai, a programme officer at the Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee, (SPCC) said that two icefall doctors have sustained serious injuries. “The icefall doctors are going through yet another shock after last year’s tragedy,” he said.

“We have survived another deadliest of disasters,” said an icefall doctor. All their equipment have been swept away by the avalanche.

Rai said the SPCC too is not sure whether any expeditions will take place this year. “All the routes prepared by the icefall doctors have collapsed and they need to be created from scratch again.”

Rai said that the climbers have been asked to remain in contact with the SPCC.

Mountaineering officials said that a meeting with the tourism ministry and expedition agencies has been planned soon to decide on further plans.

The tourism department has issued climbing permits to 370 individuals this year. Of that, 300 climbing permits have been issued to foreign climbers.

The department has confirmed the death of 36-year-old Dan Fredinburg, a Google executive. Fredinburg was the head of Privacy for Innovation Lab Google[x].

According to the department, a 30-member Indian Army Everest Expedition team has returned from the Base Camp. It also said that 200 trekkers in Langtang were missing, but that mountaineers on Mount Dhaulagiri and Mount Annapurna have been reported to be safe.