Ueli Steck* Nepal

Mount Everest at night.     Photo: Grayson Schaffer

8 Dead on Everest

Massive quake triggers slide

At around 11:56 a.m. local time, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal, leveling many of the country’s poorly constructed brick and stone buildings. The quake was centered about 50 miles northeast of the capital of Kathmandu, where thousands are presumed dead.

The Khumbu Region, home to Mount Everest and the Sherpa villages, were not spared from the devastation. Sherpas working on Everest’s north side were able to contact their families in the village of Phortse, where several houses were reported collapsed, some with people inside.

In Everest Base Camp, on the south side of the mountain, a massive ice avalanche coming off of Pumori (23,494 feet), which faces Everest, sent ice and other debri through tents, killing and injuring climbers. According to reports from the mountain, at least 15 people are in critical condition. Meanwhile the BBC is reporting that at least eight people in Base Camp have died. Climbers who were on the route or in Camps I and II have checked in reporting that they are safe but stranded. The route through the Khumbu Icefall has been destroyed and no helicopter flights were able to make the trip up the valley after the quake due to weather.

While doctors have been too busy caring for the injured to report in, radio traffic tells a story of a desperate situation. The Himalayan Rescue Association (HRA) camp was badly damaged in the avalanche. Doctors and paramedics are currently using the International Mountain Guides camp as their base of operations. The Himalayan Experience camp is being used to house uninjured climbers who’ve lost their camps.

When the sun comes up in Nepal in a few hours, it’s likely to rise on a scene of devastation not seen since the Haiti earthquake of 2008. Construction in Nepal is prone to collapse. In 1988, a magnitude 6.8 quake centered along the India-Nepal border killed roughly 1,500 people and injured more than 16,000.

Given the scale of the devastation, it’s hard to see how Everest’s climbing season can possibly continue. This would be the second year without a season following the deadly avalanche that killed 16 local workers on April 18, 2014.

Check back here for more coverage as the story develops.