April 8, 2013

Climbers working through the icefall.     Photo: Grayson Schaffer

Elite Sherpa Dies in Fall on Everest

'Icefall Doctor' is the first casualty this year

Reports are coming back that a highly experienced Nepalese Sherpa has died in the Khumbu Icefall while setting ropes for the upcoming climbing season. Mingmar Sherpa, 45, was what is known as an "Icefall Doctor," a member of an elite and respected team responsible for maintaining the route up Everest. Although the position is extremely dangerous, an Icefall Doctor has never before died on the mountain.

According to Garrett Madison, the head guide for Alpine Ascents International Mountain Climbing, Mingma Sherpa was descending from Camp II when he slipped and fell into a crevasse. No one else was injured.

The death is the first of the year on Everest, following a 2012 season that became one of the deadliest in recent memory.

For more on Icefall Doctors and life on Everest, read Kevin Fedarko's feature story High Times.


Adam Kreek, one of the expedition, is a Canadian Olympic gold medal rower.     Photo: AthletesCAN via Flickr

Olympic Rowers Capsize in the Atlantic

Were attempting a world record

Four American and Canadian rowers were rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard Saturday morning after an unexpected wave capsized their boat. They had been aiming to set a world record for an unassisted, human-powered row across the Atlantic Ocean. 

Adam Kreek, a Canadian Olympic gold medal rower, and Markus Pukonen, Patrick Fleming, and Jordan Hanssen, had set out on the 4,000-mile journey from Dakar, Senegal, on January 23. Their 29-foot boat had solar panels and wind turbines to power equipment onboard. The crew had also been conducting research on marine life and sleep deprivation, among other things.  

When the rogue wave hit about 400 miles north of Puerto Rico, they'd been traveling for 73 days and were about 900 miles from their final destination in Miami, Florida. Their boat did not right itself as it was supposed to, and the men were forced to activate their emergency beacons.  

All four are now on dry land and in good shape. They're already planning to give the record another shot.


    Photo: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Kayaker Rescues Family of Five

SUV rolled into the American River

A California kayaker saved the lives of a family of five after their SUV spun out of control and crashed into the river where he was paddling. The family was driving along Highway 50 in the Sierra Nevada region when their SUV swerved, struck a concrete marker, a tree, a boulder, then rolled into the American River.

Kayaker Mark Devittorio almost ended up underneath the SUV. “It's fortuitous that they didn’t actually land on me,” he told KRCA. “I was kayaking right there moments before they plunged off this cliff and landed right there in the river.” Devittorio rushed to the family’s aid and was able to get the three children out of the SUV and safely to shore, however the driver and his wife were still trapped upside down in the front seats.

Fortunately, an Eldorado County fire truck was in the area and was able to reach the scene within minutes of the crash. The team was trained in water rescue and managed to extract the couple from the car. While the driver, Christian Lemler, suffered moderate injuries, his family was largely unharmed.


Mexican Gray Wolf     Photo: USFWS

Wildlife Employee Investigated in Wolf Killing

Endangered wolf died in January

A Wildlife Services employee is under investigation for the killing of an endangered Mexican gray wolf in January, according to a federal spokesperson. The Albuquerque Journal reported that vague details issued by the spokesperson and a government report suggest that the employee was investigating two livestock deaths on January 19 and may have mistakenly identified the endangered wolf for a coyote and shot it.

“While on-site he lethally removed a canine, which was then identified as possibly a Mexican wolf,” Wildlife Services spokesperson Carol Bannerman wrote to the Albuquerque Journal.

Bannerman went on to tell the Albuquerque Journal that the federal employee reported the incident immediately, but the January federal report of wolf deaths listed "no wolf mortalities." The United States Fish and Wildlife Service listed the total wild population of the Mexican gray wolf at 75 at the end of 2012. The agency has not offered an explanation of what happened.

The Center of Biological Diversity, which tipped off the Albuquerque Journal to the incident, issued a statement through its director. “I am once again sad that a Mexican wolf … has needlessly died, and it is infuriating that he or she was killed by a trigger-happy government agent who was supposed to help recover this unique and endangered subspecies of the gray wolf,” said Michael Robinson. “The shooter should be off the job and should be prosecuted.”

On Sunday, an online petition was field on Care2 to have the federal employee fired. 

For more, read "Wildlife Employee Investigated in Wolf Killing."


The Piolets d'Or logo

The Piolets d'Or logo     Photo: Courtesy of Piolets d'Or

Six-Way Tie at Piolets d'Or

First in climbing award's history

There were no losers at this year's Piolets d'Or, the awards that celebrate excellence in alpinism. Literally. All six climbing teams nominated for this year's prize won, from a Russian team that climbed a new route up Pakistan's Muztagh Tower to a British pair that put up a new line on the Northeast ridge of Shiva in India. The unprecedented tie is the first of its kind since French magazine Montagnes began presenting the Piolets 21 years ago.

"2012 was an exceptional year for groundbreaking ascents," the organizers said in a press release. "The jury struggled to reduce that list to six, but those that were eventually chosen are truely outstanding."

Besides the six awards, the jury, headed by British climber Stephen Venables, gave a special lifetime achievement award to Kurt Diemberger, the only living mountaineer to have made the first ascent of two 8,000-meter peaks.

Via Climbing