Queenslander survives fatal Everest avalanche
One young Queensland girl has survived the world's highest mountain as at least twelve people perish as an avalanche hits Mount Everest. Nine News.PT1M50S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-36yb1 620 349 April 20, 2014
An Australian mountaineer who narrowly escaped the deadliest accident ever on Mount Everest says some local guides and climbers were questioning whether to scrap their summit plans after 13 Nepalese guides were killed in an avalanche.
Gavin Turner was scaling the treacherous Khumbu Icefall with his sherpa guide early on Friday when he saw the avalanche strike climbers just ahead of him, at an altitude of about 5800 metres.
"We saw it approach... it was an extremely close call, a matter of minutes," Turner said in a phone interview from Everest base camp.
Nepalese rescue team members help a survivor of the avalanche. Photo: AFP
As news of the accident sent shockwaves among mountaineers, most of the sherpas on the mountain gathered their belongings and left, leaving the world's highest peak deserted but for tents packed with foreign climbers stunned by the disaster.
The accident underscores the huge risks borne by local guides, who ascend the icy slopes of the 8848-metre peak, often in pitch-dark and usually weighed down by tenting equipment, ropes and food supplies for their clients.
The nature of their work means that sherpas will usually make many more trips up the mountain and expose themselves to far greater risk than foreign climbers who pay tens of thousands of dollars to summit the peak.
The toll, at 12 dead, with four still missing, is the worst in a single day in the history of Everest. Photo: Reuters
While rescue helicopters buzzed overhead, plucking snow-blanketed bodies out of the mountain to base camp using cables suspended from the aircraft, hundreds of sherpas said they wanted to take a break from the climb.
Some said they would not come back at all this season.
"My sherpa said he won't be returning - he has a wife and a two-year-old son and the love of his family outweighed any financial reward," Turner said.
The 38-year-old had set out for his first Everest summit just days ago, in a bid to raise funds for a children's charity, but said the accident had left "many climbers asking themselves if they should go ahead".
Turner's thoughts were echoed in an account posted online by veteran mountaineer Tim Rippel, the Canadian owner of expedition company Peak Freaks.
Four sherpas on Rippel's team endured a close shave when the avalanche struck, two were trapped above the disaster area and two others dropped their loads and retreated to base camp only minutes before the accident occurred.
"Everyone is shaken here at base camp," Rippel wrote on his blog late on Friday.
"Some climbers are packing up and calling it quits, they want nothing to do with this. Reality has set in," wrote Rippel, who reached the summit of Everest in 2008.
"Everyone is in agreement that Everest 2014 is shaping up to be the worst season in history for complications and for deaths."
Nepal's Sherpas, an ethnic group thought to be of Tibetan origin who live mainly in the eastern Himalayas, served as guides and porters for some of the first expeditions in the Everest region.
Among the most famous is Tenzing Norgay, who made the first summit of Everest with New Zealand mountaineer Edmund Hillary in 1953.
The term today is used for all local guides who assist Himalayan expeditions.
For Turner, who described the attempt to summit Everest as "a mountaineer's pinnacle experience", the tragedy has cast a spotlight on the heroes all too often banished to the sidelines.
"There is enormous build-up for an Everest expedition - from the physical training to the emotional investment to the financial commitment we make."
But Friday's disaster "reminds us again that it's the sherpa community who bear the weight of these expeditions, they are the backbone of every team", he said.