Avalanche Khumbu Icefall
Avalanche in the Khumbu Icefall. (Grayson Schaffer)

Avalanche on Everest

Avalanche Khumbu Icefall

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At approximately 10 a.m. local time, a major avalanche swept down off the shoulder of Nuptse, crossing the Everest route between Camps I and II and sending debris all the way to Everest’s western shoulder. For most of the season, climbers have been concerned with a horseshoe shaped hanging glacier at the top, looker’s left side of the icefall. This avalanche came from the opposite side entirely. Seconds after the roar, which sounded like a jet engine, a powder cloud blasted over the entire width of the Khumbu Icefall. Several climbers who were lightly injured by the slide continued on to Camp II. Meanwhile, climbing Sherpas and guides who were above the slide when it hit, turned back to search the debris pile.

The sirdar from Patagonian Brothers Expeditions and co-owner Damian Benegas checked a crevasse on the downhill (toward Camp I) side of the debris and found a Nepalese cook who was on his way to Camp II when the blast hit. A head count done by multiple expeditions in at least five languages had determined that the man was missing. Over the next couple of hours, rescuers and coordinators from Rainier Mountaineering, International Mountain Guides, Himalayan Experience, Patagonian Brothers Expeditions, The North Face, Mountain Trip, and the Himalayan Rescue Association worked together to hoist the man, who had sustained chest and back injuries, out of the crevasse and prepare him for a helicopter evacuation.

At the scene, doctor Rob Casserly worked with members from Ice 8000 to stabilize the patient and move him across multiple ladders to a suitable landing zone just below Camp I. With afternoon weather deteriorating, Swiss pilot Maurizio Folini flew from Kathmandu to Lukla where he picked up a few jerry cans of fuel and then headed up valley to Base Camp. There, he picked up co-pilot (and alpinist) Simone Moro, who communicated with Damian Benegas on the ground. Everything went smoothly with the evacuation, and the victim is now receiving care in Kathmandu. This was the second helicopter mission above 6,000 meters in less than a week.

Lead Photo: Grayson Schaffer