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  Mt. Everest 2005: Waldemar Niclevicz: Fatalities on Everest


Photo Waldemar Niclevicz

 

05/02/2005

42nd Day of the 10 Years of Brazil on Everest Expedition

Base Camp (5,400m).

Dear Friends! 

It was an ugly day yesterday, Sunday, here on Everest, the day was cloudy and it snowed all day.  I was very tired because of our trip to camp 3, I stayed in my tent, sleeping. 

By the end of the afternoon, when I was called to eat with my friend Irivan and my Spanish friends who are also in our expedition, Jorge, David and Haya, I discovered that our other teammate, the Italian Diego Zubani had gone down to Gorak Shep, a town at 4,900m, where he wants to recover from an infection in his throat.

Going to our mess tent I noticed how much it had snowed, the rocks were covered by at least 10 cm of fresh snow.  Although it had stopped snowing, there were a lot of clouds in the sky, and the mountains were surrounded by heavy fog.  It was then that the Icefall started to reveal itself, while the fog was receding and, on its top, a group of men was clearly seen on the whiteness of the blocks of ice.  That was a scene that I have seen some days before, when a Canadian climber broke his leg and a group of Sherpas were working on his rescue.  Sadly, we had that scene again, it meant another accident had happened.

Some Sherpas who had come down early to base, said it had snowed more than 50 cm on the Valley of Silence.  It had snowed also on the Icefall, a lot of crevasses and the infinite holes between the blocks of ice were covered by the snow, an immense danger for anyone who tried to pass there.  Sadly the Icefall became an immense trap that caught its victim, an American died after falling in one of its deep crevasses.

It was the end of the afternoon, a little later than 18 hours.  I lost my appetite and kept looking at those black points that were fused by the whiteness of the blocks of ice, even though the fog covered the Icefall completely.  It didn't take too much time to get dark, and the Sherpas will climb until today to continue with the rescue.

This last victim of the Icefall was an American named Mike O'Brien, he was 39 years old, and after spending the night at camp 1, along with his brother Chris, 32, he was coming down to base camp.  Mike and Chris were hoping to be the first American brothers to get together to the top of Everest.

The brothers, whose mother and sister had died because of Huntington disease, were climbing Everest trying to raise 100 thousand dollars for a foundation that fights against hereditary ailments like Huntington, Alzheimer or Parkinson diseases.  They were part of the SummitClimb commercial expedition, leaded by Dan Mazur.

The death of Mike O'Brien was the second fatality on Everest in just three days.

On Friday the Canadian Sean Egan died after suffering a heart attack, when he had left Base Camp (5,400m) and was going to Periche (4,200m), where we planed to be admitted to the Himalayan Rescue Association of Nepal Hospital, located there.  Egan began to feel bad while on camp 2 (6,400m), last week, discovering that he had a pulmonary infection.

If you followed closely the last updates of the "10 Years of Brazil on Everest" Expedition, you know that Irivan and I were worried from the beginning about the traps on the Icefall, where really, there is no absolute safety.  The last time we faced it, we had the biggest scare of our lives, when a five story high ice block, simply fell down beside us, when we were in the middle of a ladder which was around 15 meters high.

On our first climb, my heart came to my mouth, when an avalanche fell down in my direction.  I was caught in the fixed line and I couldn't get out of the collision route, but happily the bocks of ice fell to the bottom of a crevasse which was in front of me.

The truth is that the Icefall, no matter how well rigged it is with the fixed cords and ladders installed by the SPCC crew, it will always be a "Russian roulette", a way to minimize the risks is passing there the least number of times possible.  Irivan and I have already climbed and descended the Icefall two times, and we want to pass there just one more time, to do the final attack on Everest, but we need weather to improve to make this happen soon.

SPCC or Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee, is a committee of the National Park where Sagarmatha (Everest) is located, they install equipment on the Icefall and do daily maintenance, charging a fee of 30 thousand dollars, divided by the number of expeditions, a total of 23 this season.  The man responsible of the coordination of the work on the Icefall is called "Doctor Icefall", he is a Sherpa who knows the Icefall like the palm of his hand, he is named Ang Ningma.

Look at the pictures of the scenes on the Icefall.  In the top picture, you can see the twin ladders that crown the final part, where Irivan and I were when the ice block fell beside us.  In the bottom, the danger of walking on the blocks of ice which hide big and deep crevasses.

A big hug.

Waldemar Niclevicz

Translated from Portuguese by Jorge Rivera

Dispatches

 

 

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