Mt. Everest Expedition: Dave Hahn Details the Days Events as the Team Arrives Base Camp
At Camp One, we were up before dawn, boiling cups of instant coffee and hurriedly packing. It wasn’t going to be an ideal scenario, by any means… Being “rescued” from 20,000 ft on Mount Everest, along with perhaps 180 of our closest friends… But we weren’t likely to get any better offers… The Icefall Route that should have been a two hour descent to Basecamp was decidedly out of order and couldn’t be fixed while the earth was still shaking. We got out in the cold shadows in our down suits and thankfully saw clear and calm conditions. Perhaps we all did have a chance to escape the Western Cwm. It seemed unlikely that ninety plus landings and take offs -at what was a record breaking rescue altitude for helicopters only twenty years ago- could be accomplished without chaos or catastrophe… or at least unworkable delay, but sure enough, the first B3 powered on in at 6 AM and the great Everest Air Show began. A fear of the team leaders was a helicopter mob scene ala Saigon ‘75, but we’d arrayed our helipads in a way that didn’t allow for mobbing and everybody seemed to understand the need for superior social skills on this day. There was one way out and nobody wanted to get put on the “no fly” list. Eventually there were four or five birds in the air at any time, flying a dramatic loop from BC to Camp One to BC. A line of climbers with packs formed at each pad and a stream of climbers from Camp 2 made their way into what was left of Camp 1 and then joined the queues. It took four laps in Kiwi pilot Jason’s B3 to get our team down. Although it seemed already like a full day, it was only about 9:30 AM when Chhering and I got off the final RMI chopper. There was no back-slapping. No cheering. No high fives. We’d put down at the epicenter of a disaster and we could barely believe our eyes. Whatever relief each of us felt at being off the mountain was quickly replaced with sadness and awe at the destructive power on evidence all around us. Hearing on the radio about the quake triggered Avalanche that blasted BC did nothing to prepare us for experiencing the aftermath first hand. It was as if an enormous bomb had detonated. We each walked slowly through the obliterated camps, stopping to understand how much force had bent this or that bit of steel. We finally understood the enormous death toll and the nature of the numerous injuries to the survivors. When we reached our own greatly altered camp and heard a few stories from neighbors, we finally understood Mark Tucker’s heroism of the last few days, helping to stabilize and transport dozens upon dozens of seriously injured, bloody and broken people. He and our Sherpa team had gone immediately to help others, even though their own camp was largely destroyed. By now, we are not even mildly surprised to learn that they somehow found time and energy to rebuild camp for our arrival. Our “ordeal” seems trivial by comparison… we had to stay a bit longer in a beautiful and legendary hanging valley and deal with a bit of uncertainty. Now back down to earth… we understand just how lucky we’ve been and we are sad beyond words to learn how unlucky others have been.
RMI Guide Dave Hahn