Tuesday, 22 April 2014
Our day started with splendid news. Barbara and Nima Tashi successfully reached the summit of Lobuche East at around 8:30 a.m., after an alpine start to the day. We all celebrated the first summit of our group. It turned out to be the only one of this expedition.
At 10:30 a.m., there was an EBC-wide puja up at the Sagarmatha Polution COntrol Committee camp (the de facto central point in EBC). It was the first time a majority of the camp had come together since the tragedy of 18 May 2014. Many prayers were said and incense floated over group. Several hundred people, both Nepali and foreign, crowded all around the space. A profound sense of sadness hung over us all. For me, the most moving part of the puja was the mass incantation of "om mani padme hung rhi" (a mantra of compassion). As it was repeated over and over, it became a drone with the lama uttering blessings. At one point, I became so choked up that I could not continue. Everyone seemed similarly moved.
After the puja ended, a memorial service began. A series of people stood to offer thoughts and condolences. Despite decades of working in the Khumbu, several speakers addressed the inadequacy of words at a time like this.
David Brashears offered a quote from Howard Summerville about a disaster on a 1922 Everest expedition. "I remember well the thought gnawing at my brain ... only Sherpas and Bhotias killed. Why, oh why, could not one of us Britishers have shared their fate? I would gladly at that moment have been lying there, dead in the snow, if only to give those fine chaps who had survived the feeling that we had shared their loss." As Westerners, it is difficult to understand the full depth of the losses.
After about two hours, the meeting took on a more political tone. Addressing the group in Nepali and English, a spokesperson for the Sherpa climbing community talked about the profound sense of loss they were experiencing. With 16 dead, 3 of whom are still lie in the Icefall, he said they had no wish to continue this season. Another person spoke for almost an hour with a 53-point list of grievances and demands of the Nepal government. It was a bit discordant after the puja and memorial.
Towards the end of the gathering, Jim stood to speak. He talked about coming to the Khumbu since 1972. Jim said he had always come as a guest of the community. Addressing the Sherpa guides, he said he knew many of their fathers and grandfathers, had stayed in their homes, and returns every year to be part of these families. He respected their decisions. He told them he was drawn to Everest as a young man and was still drawn to Everest. The crowd laughed and shouted (grandfather).
Although our party completely understands and supports the Sherpa community's decision to end the climbing season, we are all disappointed. We are totally dependent on the Sherpa climbing community for their support and leadership on Everest. Without them, we cannot move forward with our expedition. Martin, Shane and Steve spent great time, energy and money reaching this point. Jeff looked forward tojoining them as a guide on the mountain. All three clients expressed a desire to return in the future.
From here, we will begin the process of unwinding our expedition. Martin and Steve, Jeff, Shane and Barbara will probably leave camp by the end of the week to make their way back to Lukla and Kathmandu. Jim and Scott will remain to pack things up. We still face the challenges of getting people, gear, food and refuse out of an inhospitable place.
We will continue updating you as things move forward.
Lots of love to our family and friends.
Posted by: Scott Williams
Blogs by other members of the expedition
Shane - http://HeartHealthyEverestClimb2014.blogspot.com
Steve - http://Wetumpka2Everest.blogspot.com
Jeff - http://www.highpeakadventures.com/high_peak_adventures/web_log/web_log.html
The Khumbu Icefall as seen from the E3 Base camp in 2014
The puja continued with the lama offering prayers outside for us all...living and departed...
Om Mani Pedmi Hung Hri