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The Explorers Museum and Tim Lavery shared Irish Seven Summits’s photo.
Paul and the crew remain at Pheriche for a second day. The following is Paul’s first hand account of the situation from Friday onwards:
“We had been in the icefall almost 70% of the way to camp 1 on 24th and 25th was changed to be a rest day at base camp before our planned move to camp 1 starting at midnight on 26th.
“We were in the food tent on morning of the quake on 25th and I noticed the table starting to move, then a violent movement. I ran outside and the entire Khumbu Glacier was moving violently under my feet. Our camp was directly under the icefall so I stared up at the icefall expecting any danger to come from there. The movement was extraordinary and exaggerated by the fact that we were stood on an active glacier.
“My climbing buddy Teo from Norway screamed at me to turn around and I then saw a wall of snow as high as I could see coming towards our camp at frightening speed. It was a massive avalanche from Pumori triggered by the quake. We just had enough time to dive into the food tent and scurry under the table before the wall of snow and energy hit. Between the quake and the avalanche we didn’t really know what had happened.
“A few minutes later I emerged from the tent and into the realisation that we had just been hit by a massive earthquake. We could see some action down towards the middle of camp and so our Sherpa Pasang grabbed some of our oxygen and went to investigate. I wanted to keep our climbers together for now so we stayed in camp. Some of our Sherpa were in camp 1 & 2 and I knew a handful of people who were up the mountain and at that point all of my worry was for those in the icefall or at camp 1 & 2. I never for a moment thought the tragedy would be less than 50 metres away and in base camp.
“Within minutes a guide was in our camp shouting for people to help carry the injured. I shouted at the team to move and we headed for the medical camp. As we ran through base camp (which is around 1km long) the scale of the devastation became apparent. It was like a tornado zone. Entire camps flattened and personal effects and equipment scattered everywhere. The medical camp somehow survived but everything around it was destroyed.
“The medics were attempting a camp wide triage effort. I saw bodies lying waiting to be covered and a mixture of seriously wounded and walking wounded. It was like a war zone.
“We immediately got to work to help out. Both Sherpa and clients were as one in shouldering the load. I was asked to help carry seriously injured to the IMG camp. The system established was… seriously injures to IMG, walking wounded to HiMex and overflow to Asian Trekking. I was alongside my fellow climbers Teo and the 23 year old from Norway got stuck in without question as we spent hours helping to ferry injures and medical supplies to the key camps.
“At IMG my old guide from Antarctica Greg was in charge and boy did he do an awesome job. I must pay incredible tribute to the medical team and to the IMG, HiMex and Asian Trekking teams who stood tall when everyone needed them. I was never so proud to see the depth of cooperation that took place and the great leadership from Greg, Russell and those who took charge of grim tasks.
“As the day wore on the death toll rose from a half dozen into double figures and eventually to the same level as 2014. The big good news was that everyone at camps 1 & 2 were ok. I cant tell you the relief… Paul, Ellen, Ellis, Alex and our own Sherpa were all ok. I wanted to scream with relief.
“By the time I got back to my camp that evening I was exhausted and emotionally shattered. I wish I could have done more. I wish I could have got there earlier. I cannot find words to describe the heroics performed by the medical team and those charged with organising rescue and triage. I knew some of the people being treated for serious injury and I knew some of the people lying still under the blue plastic covers. I wanted to sit and cry but the danger of the quake was not passed and so we were instructed to put on our helmets and not to sleep so that we could react immediately.
“What followed was the longest night of my life. Every sound caused us to jump. I could still feel movement under my feet. It was not real but it felt real. We knew an aftershock was likely but we had no idea when or how big. I could still see in my mind that wall of snow and energy coming towards us like something from a movie. We were all very scared. I was scared yo death.
“I was lucky. Our team were lucky. We had placed our camp in the right place, by chance and not design. Had we been in last years location we would surely have been wiped out. I have to be honest that there was not much time to contemplate such things at the time. Next morning I went to IMG early to check on my buddy Paul and the docs told me he had just been evacuated and was doing OK. I was so relieved. I could think of nothing else all night but how he was doing. The helicopter evacuations were in full flow at IMG and Greg was coordinating. I tried to keep him amused with some sarcastic banter and I gave him a few Boost bars to keep him fed. It was pathetic really but it was all I could do to help at that moment and he seemed to appreciate it. The death toll was now 15. Our expedition leader Mingma found a body under a crushed tent earlier in the morning. He and his brother Pasang were now helping to load injured onto helicopters.
“Later in the afternoon we had an aftershock. I was in my tent which I had adjusted into a fortress with bags all around the perimeter. The earth shook and Teo ran into my tent. We covered ourselves with the mattress, helmets on and sat in absolute fear waiting to hear if an avalanche would be triggered. It didn’t happen and there was wide relief. But by now were all heavily unsettled. Another long night of sleepless waiting.
“The next morning I spoke to Mingma and Pesang about what our options might be. We agreed that I would go speak to the biggest team on yhe mountain and assess the possibilities. It was a short conversation. The icefall was seriously damaged and it would be unlikely that a safe route could now be found. Also the families of many Sherpa were now homeless and so we were likely to see a massive outflow from base camp as they returned to help rebuild their homes. In short I was told that once our guys got back from high camps that we should pack up and leave. We also heard a report that a bigger shake might be coming. There was no Internet and so everything was unsubstantiated. We had to decide based on rumour and fact. With small avalanches being triggered every few hours the choice seemed clear. We needed to get out of the danger zone and down to safer levels.
“We hugged our sherpa when they finally arrived back from camp 2. It was time to go. I got the team together and Mingma instructed us to pack sleeping bag and warm clothes and that we would be evacuating to Pheriche some 7 hours south.
“I trekked through the devastated base camp for the last time and met my good friend Paul Pottinger who had just been evacuated from Camp 2. I was so very glad to see him. We talked a little about what had happened and vowed to meet again in happier times. I diverted into IMG to see Greg and thank him for his great work. We agreed that we were done with Everest after two years of disasters and I wished him well. As I crossed the heli pad I saw Garreth Maddison standing over the body of his good friend and my heart bled for him. Two seasons of tragedy for him to endure. It was too much. It was unfair. I walked on and out of base camp for the last time with tears in my eyes. This was so unfair. People who just wanted to climb were dead…. at base camp for fuck sake! I was angry. I was hurting. I was selfishly mourning the end of my seven summits project as if that mattered a crap at that moment. But all of the emotion of the previous days was leaking out and I couldn’t help it.
“I am now in the safety of Pheriche and now we sit and wait. The climbing season is most certainly over now. Our next decisions are about how to get home. This country has been shaken to its core. We are all in shock and it will take much time to process it all as well as all that has been seen and cannot be unseen.
“I am so very proud of my teammates for the way they helped those in need. I am in awe at the medical personnel and the teams at IMG, HiMex and Asian Trekking. I pay great tribute to the helicopter pilots who flew in difficult conditions to rescue climbers and evacuate injured. The road ahead is unclear but I hope the response to the Nepalese plight will be resounding and immediate”
The Explorers Museum shared Irish Seven Summits’s photo.
12 hrs ·
Carrying the Explorers Museum pennant No 1, Paul Devaney had set his sights on the final summit of his Seven Summit’s project when disaster struck Nepal last Friday and Saturday. Here is Paul’s first hand account of the events since that moment when the earthquake hit, detailing the avalanche and subsequent emergency situation.