Soul-searching ends Everest climbing season

Soul-searching ends Everest climbing season

As rescuers lose hope of finding more survivors in Nepal’s earthquake disaster zone, a separate drama has unfolded high above them on Mount Everest where the hopes of a few rich climbers and some of their sherpas have also vanished. 

After six days of high emotion and harsh words at Everest Base Camp, climbing firm Himalayan Experience finally decided on Friday to abandon its ascent of the world’s highest peak, becoming the last big team to do so. 

For one of its clients, millionaire Texas realtor David McGrain, it should never have taken that long to call off the climb, given thousands of people had been killed in the valleys below as well as 18 in an avalanche at base camp itself. 

“The narcissism among some of my team mates made me want to vomit,” McGrain said after leaving the camp by helicopter for the town of Lukla on Wednesday. 

“All they could think about was their goddamn climb, when hours before we were holding crushed skulls in our hands.” 

Another climber, Nick Cienski, speaking from the ruins of base camp where he helped recover bodies and gather the broken remains of victims, initially agonised over whether to give up.  

“We are still sorting through a lot of emotions; 24 hours ago we were wrapping people’s body parts in bags,” said Cienski, who later vowed to help in the quake relief effort. “So on the one hand (there is) the reality of that ... and on the second hand, we are climbers and this is sort of what we do. And so, does it make sense to continue?” 

It is a question that also haunted Everest veteran Russell Brice, who runs Himalayan Experience. He made the decision to quit and bring the rest of his group off the mountain. 

“My (team) members are very angry with me,” Brice said in Kathmandu, the impoverished country’s crowded capital where a quarter of the quake’s 6,200 victims were killed by the 7.8 magnitude quake that hit on Saturday. 

“But I’ve made the decision to cancel and they’re going to have to live with that.” Nepal’s tourism department said on Thursday that climbers faced “no additional risk” after the quake and could resume their expeditions. 
Brice agreed that had his decision been based on climber safety alone, an ascent would have been possible. 

Dennis Broadwell, who owns the US company Mountain Gurus, also canceled his firm's Everest climb. 

“If this happened in America, they would not be playing a ball game the next day,” he said. “I told my clients, this is a national disaster, these sherpas just want to go back to their families.”

The Himalayan Experience and other team camps served as makeshift medical centres to treat about 60 injured people. The dead were shrouded in sleeping bags. 

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