Friday, May 22, 2015

Nepal earthquake stirs debate on overcrowding and commercialisation of Everest


(Mount Everest may be over…)
There's no mistaking the twinge of pain in his voice as Jamling Tenzing Norgay speaks on the phone from Kathmandu. Mention the series of avalanches that were set off on the world's tallest mountain, Mount Everest, and on some of the peaks around by the deadly earthquake last Saturday, killing at least 19 climbers of different nationalities, and he remains silent for a few seconds. As a Sherpa mountaineer and mountain guide, Norgay's sense of tragedy is palpable — what makes it even deeper is the family legacy; his father Sherpa Tenzing Norgay was the first summiteer of Mount Everest (along with Edmund Hillary) in 1953.
"We respect Mount Everest as a mother and a goddess — both in Hindu & Buddhist cultures. An earthquake is a natural calamity but there's still a deep feeling of sadness," says Norgay, who rushed to Kathmandu from Darjeeling, where he lives, to search for many of his family members who live in the villages around Everest Base Camp. There were 2,500-3,000 climbers and trekkers at the base camp last weekend, with over 35 teams, many of which were hoping to climb the mountain. "There were heavy losses of both lives and equipment. Many of the climbers had to be evacuated by helicopters from BC and Camp 1 and even higher elevations. However, the worst hit are the Sherpas with 14 of them killed," adds Norgay.

In recent years, there has been a great deal of debate around the issue of overcrowding and commercialisation of the Everest with a huge number of hobby climbers or Everest 'tourists' flocking to Nepal to reach the highest point in the world. The recent deaths at the base camp following deadly avalanches will now rekindle the debate.

"While we in India can't comment about Nepal's internal tourism policy in allowing a large number of mountaineers to go to Everest every year, many of the casualties during the quake happened because inexperienced climbers didn't know how to save themselves," says wing commander Amit Chowdhury, vice president of the Indian Mountaineering Foundation, who was expedition leader of the Indian Air Force expedition to Mt Everest in 2005. He adds that many veteran mountaineers are now giving Everest the miss and looking out for more challenging routes on other mountains. Mandip Singh Soin, mountaineer and founder and MD of adventure tour operator Ibex Expeditions, avers that the government of Nepal needs to seriously look into the issue of overcrowding on the slopes of Mt Everest and find solutions in creative ways so as not to lose out on tourism dollars which are very important for the economy. "Mountain tourism is not just important for Nepal but also sustains the huge community of Sherpas who provide the lifeline for all mountaineering activities," says Soin.
He has given Everest the miss and instead climbed Mt Meru in the Gharwal Himalayas, which is one of the world's toughest peaks, amongst others. Meanwhile, Gurgaon couple Sangeeta, 51, & Ankur Bahl, 54, have been through a harrowing time after Ankur was stranded at Camp 2 (21,000 feet) of Mt Everest along with other climbers from Madison Mountaineering. "But this was a natural calamity and won't put me off the mountains. In fact, I will come back here again to climb Everest," Bahl told ET Magazine from Lukla on the Everest trail after he was evacuated by helicopter. The Bahls have been on expeditions to Mt Kilimanjaro in Africa, Elbrus in Russia, Vinson in Antarctica, Aconcagua in South America and McKinley in North America. "Even though I spent a few terrible days awaiting news of my husband, I too intend to go and climb Everest soon. Achieving the famous Seven Summits is a dream for both of us," Sangeeta said.

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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

'The earth shook, setting off two avalanches’

Monday, May 4, 2015

Google Executive Daniel Fredinburg Killed in Mt. Everest Avalanche


Google Executive Daniel Fredinburg Killed in Mt. Everest Avalanche

Google executive Daniel Fredinburg was among at least 17 people killed today in an avalanche on Mt. Everest that was triggered by a massive earthquake near the Nepal capital of Kathmandu.

Google's Director of Privacy Lawrence You wrote in a statement: "Sadly, we lost one of our own in this tragedy. +Dan Fredinburg a long-time member of the Privacy organization in Mountain View, was in Nepal with three other Googlers, hiking Mount Everest. He has passed away. The other three Googlers with him are safe and we are working to get them home quickly... Our thoughts are with the people of Nepal, and with Dan's family and friends during this terrible time."

The climbing group Jagged Globe wrote on its website, "It is with the greatest sorrow that we report the death of one of our Everest team members, Daniel Fredinburg... Our thoughts and prayers go out to Dan's family and friends whilst we pray too for all those who have lost their lives in one of the greatest tragedies ever to hit this Himalayan nation."

A senior trekking guide told The Associated Press that at least 17 people died in the avalanche that slammed into a section of the Mount Everest mountaineering base camp. Another 61 people were injured, Ang Tshering of the Nepal Mountaineering Association told the AP.

Fredinburg worked at Google for eight years, and according to his LinkedIn page, he described his roles as: Head of Privacy for Google, Manage Product Management team for Google's Privacy team and Lead Google Adventure Team.

Fredinburg previously dated "One Tree Hill" actress Sophia Bush, and according to the Hollywood Reporter, the two broke up in August 2014.

Bush posted on Instagram today, "Today I find myself attempting to pick up the pieces of my heart that have broken into such tiny shards, I'll likely never find them all. Today I, and so many of my loved ones, lost an incredible friend. Dan Fredinburg was one-of-a-kind. Fearless. Funny. A dancing robot who liked to ride dinosaurs and chase the sun and envision a better future for the world. His brain knew how to build it. His heart was constantly evolving to push himself to make it so. He was one of my favorite human beings on Earth. He was one of the great loves of my life. He was one of my truest friends... I'm devastated and simultaneously so deeply grateful to have known and loved him, and to have counted him as one of my tribe. I was so looking forward to our planned download of "all the things" when he got home. I am crushed that I will never hear that story. I am crushed knowing that there are over 1,000 people in Nepal suffering this exact feeling, knowing that they too will never hear another tale about an adventure lived from someone that they love... His energy is so big and so bright, and it's all around us, so put some love toward him today. And then hug your loved ones again."

Fredinburg's sister Megan wrote on his Instagram that the Google executive "suffered from a major head injury and didn't make it."

"We appreciate all of the love that has been sent our way thus far and know his soul and his spirit will live on in so many of us," she wrote. "All our love and thanks to those who shared this life with our favorite hilarious strong willed man. He was and is everything to us. Thank you." 

Just one day ago, Fredinburg posted an update from Mt. Everest on Instagram, writing, "Day 22: Ice training with @micbattelli means frequent stops for morning cappuccino, regardless of danger." 

Fredinburg was also apparently on Mt. Everest last year in April, when another big avalanche hit. In April 2014, Bush tweeted:  Today's avalanche has killed at least 10 climbers and guides and injured many more. It was triggered by the magnitude-7.8 earthquake that hit about 50 miles northwest of Kathmandu just before noon local time, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. At least 1,457 people were killed, officials said.

According to the United Nations, nearly 5 million people have been impacted by the quake, which is believed to be the worst earthquake in Nepal in more than 80 years. 

ABC News' Jon Williams, Rym Momtaz and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
 
 
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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

17 reported dead in Mount Everest avalanche, but toll expected to rise

April 25
 
A senior mountain guide said that at least 17 people were killed after an avalanche triggered by Nepal’s massive earthquake slammed into a section of the Mount Everest mountaineering base camp, and 61 others were injured.

Ang Tshering of the Nepal Mountaineering Association said early Sunday that 22 of the seriously injured were taken by helicopter to Pheriche village, the nearest medical facility. Bad weather and poor communications are hampering more helicopter sorties.

The avalanche began on Mount Kumori, a 22,966-foot mountain just a few miles from Everest, roared through the nearby Khumbu Icefall and slammed into base camp, sending hundreds of climbers running for their lives, according to the Associated Press.

Nepal Tourism Ministry spokesman Gyanendra Shrestha said the death toll could rise and that the avalanche had buried part of the base camp. He said two tents at the camp had been filled with the injured.

“The toll could go up, it may include foreigners as well as Sherpas,” Shrestha told Britain’s the Telegraph newspaper.
 
One of those killed was Dan Fredinburg, a Google engineer based in California. He died as a result of head injuries when the avalanche hit, according to a statement from the mountaineering company that had taken him to base camp.

“We pray too for all those who have lost their lives in one of the greatest tragedies ever to hit this Himalayan nation,” Jagged Globe said.

On Saturday, Google confirmed Fredinburg’s death, with Lawrence You, the company’s director of privacy, posting online that Fredinburg was in Nepal with three other Google employees hiking Everest. The other three, he added, are safe.

Google would not give further details. According to the technology blog Re/Code, Fredinburg was an experienced climber who co-founded, in his spare time, Google Adventure. The project aims to “translate the Google Street View concept into extreme, exotic locations like the summit of Mount Everest or the Great Barrier Reef off Australia,” according to Startup Grind, a global startup community.

Another company, Adventure Consultants, said in a news release that two of its staff members were among those killed in the avalanche. The company did not release their names pending notification of their families.

Tourism Ministry officials estimated that at least 1,000 climbers, including about 400 foreigners, had been at base camp or on Everest when the quake struck.

April is one of the most popular times to scale the 29,035-foot peak, before rain and clouds cloak it at the end of May. Almost exactly a year ago, an avalanche killed 16 Nepali guides in what was the single deadliest day on the mountain.

On Saturday, Romanian climber Alex Gavan made a desperate appeal for a helicopter to fly in and evacuate climbers: “Many dead. Much more badly injured. More to die if not heli asap.”

While helicopters would normally be used to pluck stranded climbers, it was unclear whether any would be available for Everest, given the devastation in and around Kathmandu.

Carsten Lillelund Pedersen, a Danish climber, said about 40 people were being treated in a makeshift hospital at a tent at base camp. He said many of those injured had back injuries from being hit by rocks and ice when running from the avalanche.

The poor visibility after the first avalanche meant it was “difficult to see the following avalanches, and there are so many — maybe one every 5 min. — that I have stopped counting,” Pedersen said on Facebook.

Mohan Krishna Sapkota, joint secretary in the Nepalese Tourism Ministry, said the government was struggling to assess the damage on Everest because of poor phone coverage.

“It is almost impossible to get in touch with anyone,” Sapkota said.

The magnitude-7.8 quake struck around noon Saturday, about 50 miles northwest of Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu.

The avalanche triggered by the quake arrived just over a year after another avalanche near Everest base camp claimed the lives of 13 Nepali mountain guides, marking it as the single greatest loss of life in the mountain’s deadly history.

Images from base camp showed climber’s belongings strewn across the ground and brightly-colored tents covered in snow. Reports on Twitter suggested that some climbers were evacuating the area, while others remained to help facilitate rescue efforts.

Pedersen, the Danish climber, told the AP that he and a Belgian companion were at the Khumbu Icefall, “close to the base camp at an altitude of 5,000 meters, when the earthquake hit.”

“We are starting to receive the injured, the most severe of them with many fractures, he was blown away by the avalanche and broke both legs,” he wrote on Facebook. “For the camps closer to where the avalanche hit, our Sherpas believe that a lot of people may have been buried in their tents.”

Climbers described a chaotic scene that included multiple aftershocks and avalanches that turned the already dangerous mountain into a trembling nightmare.

Capt. Tim Bradshaw, leader of a British army team attempting to scale the peak, told Sky News that his tent started to “rock and move” as the earthquake hit.

“Then almost like thunder, huge boulders started to break around us from the side of the mountain and roll down towards the bottom, towards base camp,” he said.

“Everyone here is fine,” he added, “but we are on the other side of the mountain away from the Nepal side, quite away from the epicenter.”

Over the past six decades, more than 4,000 climbers have scaled Everest, with hundreds more attempting to do so during the two-month climbing season each spring, according to the Associated Press. The number of climbers has spiked in recent years, with more than 800 climbers reaching the summit in the 2013 spring season, the AP reported.

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Friday, April 3, 2015

Indian army to remove tons of Mount Everest trash


Most climbers who try don't succeed in climbing the 29,035-foot-high Mount Everest, the world's tallest peak.

But they do leave their trash. Thousands of pounds of it.

That's why an experienced climbing group from the Indian army plans to trek up the 8,850-meter mountain to pick up at least 4,000 kilograms (more than 8,000 pounds) of waste from the high-altitude camps, according to India Today.

The mountain is part of the Himalaya mountain range on the border between Nepal and the Tibet region.

The 34-member team plans to depart for Kathmandu on Saturday and start the ascent in mid-May. The upcoming trip marks the 50th anniversary of the first Indian team to scale Mount Everest.
"Sadly, Mount Everest is now ... called the world's highest junkyard," Maj. Ranveer Singh Jamval, the team leader, told India Today.

"We will target the mountaineering waste from Camp 1 (19,695 feet) to the summit," said Jamval, who has scaled Mount Everest twice.

"There are old cylinders, tents, tins, packets, equipment and other mountaineering waste. Apart from our own haversacks weighing 10 kg each, we intend to bring in another 10 kg each on the trip."
More than 200 climbers have died attempting to climb the peak, part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Indian expedition isn't the first attempt to clean up the trash left by generations of hikers.
Among the cleanup efforts is the Eco Everest Expedition, an annual trip launched in 2008 that is all about climbing "in an eco-sensitive manner," bringing old refuse, in addition to that generated during the trip, down for disposal, according to the Asian Trekking website.

Last year, Nepalese tourism authorities started to require hikers to carry out an extra 18 pounds of garbage, in addition to their own trash and human waste, according to the New York Times.
The-CNN-Wire

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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Want to survive Mt Everest? Then join a team from an egalitarian country where people listen to each other. It’s that simple



The Summit of Everest: What it's Like

THERE are plenty of ways to die on the world’s highest peaks. 

There’s bad luck, like the avalanche that killed 16 Sherpas and other Nepalis on the Khumbu Icefall below Mt Everest last year.

There’s your own body, which can let you down in any number of ways from cerebral and pulmonary odoemas (an abnormal accumulation of fluid) to heart attack and plain old exhaustion.

There’s lack of experience, which claims an increasing number of big-spending victims each year on guided expeditions.

But according to a new study, the one factor which leads to more deaths on Everest (and the world’s highest peaks) is a rigid social heirarchy.
One of the lucky ones... this man survived an avalanche on Mount Manaslu in northern Nepa
One of the lucky ones... this man survived an avalanche on Mount Manaslu in northern Nepal. At least nine mountaineers were killed. (AP Photo/Garrett Madison, Alpine Ascents International) Source: AP
 
Here’s what that means. When countries with a strict social heirarchy organise mountaineering expeditions, they tend to reach the summit more than most groups. But they also end up with more dead climbers because the safety concerns of some climbers tend not to be addressed by expedition leaders.

“For better or worse, hierarchy exerts strong influence over group outcomes,” report the study’s authors, a doctoral candidate and a professor from Columbia Business School and an assistant professor from INSEAD graduate business school in France.

“Strong hierarchical values pave the way for coordinated effort, but, at the same time, these values can mute the voice of others in the face of threat,” the report’s authors say.

“Our results suggest that, to avoid errors, strong hierarchical cultures need to implement mechanisms geared toward encouraging low-ranking members to voice their perspectives
and for high-ranking members to integrate this feedback.”
Andrew Lock in his office in 2007.
Andrew Lock in his office in 2007. Source: News Limited 

 News.com.au contacted leading Australian mountaineer Andrew Lock to gauge his thoughts on the study. While he wasn’t aware of it, he agreed that it seemed to ring true.

“Look, anecdotally I would find it difficult to argue that position,” he said. “Certainly I have seen those rigid groups in the mountains. When there is a degree of inflexibilty in an expedition, I can certainly see that less experienced members may not be willing to raise their voices or their voice may not be heard.”

Andrew Lock is no ordinary climber. He recently released a book called Summit 8000, which details his amazing, and successful, 16-year quest to climb the 14 peaks in the world higher than 8000 metres. He is the only Australian to join the elite “Eight-thousander” club which has just 33 (undisputed) members.

When you read Andrew’s book, you see that decision-making is often the difference between life and death. Several times he wisely neglected to attempt a summit even though he was within a few hundred metres of completing an expedition which had been months and tens of thousands of dollars in the making.
Dhaulagiri is no place to get stubborn.
Dhaulagiri is no place to get stubborn. Source: NewsComAu
 
Once, on a climb of the world’s 7th highest peak, the 8167 Dhaulagiri in Nepal, Andrew needed to spend a night alone on the mountain to acclimatise to the lack of oxygen. Acclimatisation is something climbers do to prepare their bodies for the onslaught of summit day, but it’s highly unusual for a climber to spend a night alone so high. But his team leader, an Aussie, agreed to let him do it. Andrew reckons he could have experienced life-threatening physical difficulties if he’d attempted the summit without that extra night up high.

Andrew Lock has lost more than 20 of his climbing friends either on expeditions in which he participated, or on subsequent climbing trips. He knows that danger strikes in many ways in the so-called “death zone” above 8000 metres. But he also knows that the more regimented a climbing party, the more the chance of failure.

“I know of instances where an Indian army team died on Everest where one would think they should have had the nous for lateral thinking, to turn around when the circumstances were not right,” he says.

India, says the study, is one of the world’s most heirarchical countries, right up there with the likes of Russia and China, who have also had multiple fatalities over the years on Everest and nearby peaks.
Andrew also cites the example of a Japanese expedtition which came to grief on the summit plateau of Manaslu, the world’s eighth highest mountain at 8,163m.

Mt Manaslu, Nepal. The Japanese group came to grief on the flattish area between the two
Mt Manaslu, Nepal. The Japanese group came to grief on the flattish area between the two summits. Source: News Limited
 
“How the lot of them got caught out raises questions,” he says.

“My experience from cultures around the world is that Australians are more outspoken and willing to challenge leadership, not confrontationally, but willing to talk about it.

“I can imagine in some cultures people simply would not argue with leadership and that would bring them unstuck.”

Not that any of this should lead you to think we Aussies are immune to danger.

Five Australians have died on Mt Everest over the years. But far more Russians, Chinese, Japanese and Koreans and Indians have succumbed to the mountain’s will, so you’d have to think the study’s authors are onto something.

As their report says: “Hierarchy, it turns out, can elevate climbers to the summit, but at a potentially steep cost.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The geese that can conquer Mount Everest


A tracking study has revealed the secrets of the Himalayan flight of the bar-headed goose - the world's highest bird migration.

The geese have been recorded at heights of more than 7,000m (23,000 ft) and mountaineers have claimed they have seen the birds fly over Mount Everest.

Their ability to fly in such extreme conditions has fascinated scientists for decades, as the BBC's science reporter Victoria Gill reports.

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