Montana Mountaineers OK After ‘Massive’ Mount Everest Avalanche

By Beacon Staff

The team members of an expedition on Mount Everest, including four Montanans, are all OK but a Sherpa was seriously injured after a massive avalanche swept down an adjacent ridge and razed Base Camp 1 early Friday.

Montana State University geologist David Lageson, MSU student Travis Corthouts, renowned mountaineer and Bozeman native Conrad Anker and MSU alumnus Kris Erickson are safe, according to a post from Lageson on the expedition’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/everesteducation.

“Camp 1, near the top of icefall, was all but obliterated according to early reports,” Lageson wrote. “After an intense period of frantic radio calls from EBC to account for climbers and Sherpa staff, it appears that everyone is thankfully accounted for.”

A young Sherpa cook was seriously injured after being swept into a cravasse by a surge of wind, snow and ice from the avalanche, Lageson wrote. The Sherpa was rescued and evacuated by helicopter.

“About mid-morning today, a massive avalanche roared down the flanks of Nuptse and directly into the upper Khumbu icefall,” Lageson wrote, later adding, “I cannot overstate how dangerous the Khumbu icefall is! Most climbers pass through the icefall in the pre-dawn hours when it is very cold and things tend to be more frozen-in-place and stable, as compared to the ‘heat’ of the day. However, mid-morning is also a busy time in the icefall, with Sherpa crews returning to EBC. No matter when you go through, it is gambling with your life – you throw the dice and hope you come out the other end alive.”

The expedition is sponsored by National Geographic and The North Face, with support from Montana State University. Mountaineers are trying to repeat the historic climb of 1963, when the first Americans ascended the summit of the world’s tallest mountain via the West Ridge.

The climbers left Bozeman in mid-March, arrived at base camp April 1 and planned to reach the summit in mid-May. Geologists, led by Lageson, are planning to conduct research on the Southeast Ridge.

The avalanche occurred less than a week after a Sherpa tripped crossing a ladder and fell 150 feet in a crevasse, becoming the first person to die this year on Everest, according to National Geographic writer Mark Jenkins, who is on the expedition and posting updates online.

At 29,035 feet, Mount Everest is the world’s tallest mountain if measured from sea level to summit.

For more information on the expedition, visit the National Geographic Everest 2012 page, or visit the Montana State University Expedition Education site.

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