Mt. Everest: RMI Guide Dave Hahn Reflects on the Tragedy in Nepal

Posted by: Dave Hahn | May 19, 2015
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Everest

RMI Guide Dave Hahn reflects on the events surrounding Mt. Everest and the Nepal Earthquake tragedy.

Mount Everest was simply too big for climbing in the Spring of 2015.  The RMI Expeditions team was on the mountain and giving it our very best effort when the Nepal Earthquake struck and changed all priorities.
Six climbers -guided by myself, Jeff Justman and our Sherpa Sirdar Chhering Dorje- made the trek in from Lukla over ten days.  We were one of the very first Everest teams to reach the 17,500 ft Basecamp this season, pulling in healthy and strong on April 4th.  RMI Veteran Guide Mark Tucker, our capable Basecamp Manager, was already on scene along with our Sherpa climbing team and camp support staff.  Frequent snowstorms didn’t keep our team from making a series of acclimatization hikes to local “summits” such as Kalapathar and Pumori Camp One. With great interest, we followed the progress of the Icefall Doctors as they forged a “new” route up the Khumbu Glacier to the Western Cwm.  Our own training and reconnaissance runs through the Icefall were pushed back by repeated snowstorms but we persevered and moved into Camp One at 19,900 ft on April 23.  On the morning of April 25th, the team had climbed to Camp Two (Advanced Basecamp at 21,300 ft) and returned to Camp One ahead of a threatening snowstorm when the magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck.  Luckily, due to the poor weather, our Sherpa climbing team had cut short their own climbing mission that morning and had exited the Khumbu Icefall well before the quake hit.  Giant ice avalanches thundered down from seemingly every steep mountainside. 

Fortunately, within just a few minutes via radio, we were able to establish the whereabouts and safety of our entire team. Nonetheless, the reports from basecamp were disturbing in the extreme.  The airblast caused by an avalanche off Pumori had decimated a number of camps while largely flattening our own.  Mark Tucker estimated they’d been hit by a cloud of ice debris moving at perhaps 150 miles per hour.  Even so, Tucker and our Sherpa team engaged in a heroic, prolonged and strenuous effort to attend to the numerous casualties of the disaster.  Those of us at Camp One could do nothing but sit out the snowstorm and hold on for the inevitable aftershocks.  This pronounced and continued shaking made it abundantly clear that a hazardous and time-consuming effort to rebuild the Icefall route was out of the question.  On April 27th, we came back down to basecamp by helicopter.  We were considerably relieved to be safe and united once again, but the scope of the disaster was becoming increasingly clear.  As reports of widespread destruction and disruption across Nepal now came flooding in, climbing mountains quickly receded in importance.  Our Sherpa team was justifiably anxious to be getting back to check on homes and loved ones.  We formally ended our climbing expedition and made plans for heading home.

The three-day walk down toward Lukla allowed ample opportunity for contemplation.  Our emotions were conflicted by the bizarre circumstances we found ourselves in.  In the days immediately following the quake, foreign climbers and trekkers had quickly fled the Khumbu Valley, leaving it blissfully quiet.  As much as we enjoyed the solitude, we each were aware that we were seeing the beginning of the financial disaster that would inevitably follow the natural disaster.  Tourism is virtually the only source of revenue in rural Nepal.  We tried to reconcile the absolute beauty of the setting, still majestic with snow-topped peaks and magical with blooming rhododendrons, with the tragedy on display in the villages.  We walked through funeral ceremonies and past ruined stone homes and lodges.  Locals still greeted us with a warm “Namaste” even as we learned from our Sherpa staff that homes and businesses in these still-picturesque villages were destroyed and that insurance for such losses did not exist.  Then we were down to Namche and Lukla and naturally our focus shifted to getting ourselves out to Kathmandu.  We were simply thankful that facilities like the airports seemed to be getting back to business as usual.  Convinced that getting ourselves out of Nepal as quickly as possible would be our best service to the Nepalese, we each left the country within one or two days of reaching Kathmandu.  I’m certain we were all relieved to get back to the safety and comfort of our homes… but none of us could truly leave behind what we’d seen and experienced.  The aftershocks continued and we were all acutely aware that the 7.2 quake on May 12th had scored a direct hit on the villages of our own Sherpa/Nepali expedition staff.  Previously weakened structures had come down completely and entire villages were ruined.  We are each now struggling from afar to find ways to help those who’ve helped us so much.  It is quite a different mountain than the one we set out to climb back in March… but it is a worthy struggle nonetheless.

RMI Guide Dave Hahn

Prayer flags fly at Everest Base Camp with Pumori summit behind.  Photo: Jeff Martin
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Dave, have talked to you several times on the hills of Taos Ski Valley. We consider you the adopted son of New Mexico. Glad you are safe and sound, we… read more

Posted by: Ron on 5/19/2015 at 7:32 pm

Yes, thank you Dave for taking the time to update all of us- we can’t begin to imagine what you, the team and everyone there went through and will continue… read more

Posted by: Thomas John Aikman on 5/19/2015 at 5:59 pm


Mt. McKinley: Van Deventer & Team Rest at 11,000’ Camp

Posted by: Pete Van Deventer, Robby Young, Josh Maggard | May 19, 2015
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount McKinley
Elevation: 11,200'

May 19, 2015 - 12:39 am PT

We woke to the sound of the mob leaving 11,000’ Camp to move to 14,000’. Winds have prevented teams from moving up for several days, and so 11 has become a bit of a bottle neck. Happy to be tucked into warm sleeping bags and without a camp to move today, we kept dozing until the sun hit our tents. With the warmth, we smashed out a smoked salmon and bagel breakfast, and donned empty packs to retrieve the food and fuel that we cached yesterday. Back in time for an afternoon siesta, we spent some more time horizontal, and then did a quick review of our crampon and ice ax skills. A story filled dinner stretched into the night and now it’s time to get some shut eye. We got the blog comments that you all posted today and read them over dinner. Many thanks. Tomorrow we’ll hopefully boost some food and fuel up higher to windy corner to set us up for a move to 14,000’. Good night to all. We’ll be in touch tomorrow.

RMI Guides Pete Van Deventer, Robby Young, Josh Maggard, and team

Camp at 11,200 ft on Mt. McKinley.  Photo: RMI Collection

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Alaska Seminar: Davis & Team Train at Kahiltna Base Camp

Posted by: Leon Davis, Lindsay Fixmer, Bridget Belliveau | May 19, 2015
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount McKinley
Elevation: 7,300'

May 18, 2015 - 11:43 pm PT

Hello-

Our day in Base Camp was as busy as it can get. After a leisurely breakfast of pancakes bacon and coffee, we divided up to learn and practice beacon searches, surface hauling systems and rig our sleds for moving up river. A great day under a blazing sun that had us wondering how we can be surrounded by so much snow yet be so dang hot. Tomorrow we leave our camp loaded with five days of provisions and make our way towards Kahiltna Dome. We will talk again from Camp 1!

RMI Guides Leon Davis, Lindsay Fixmer, Bridget Belliveau & Team

The view from Kahiltna Base Camp.  Photo: Seth Waterfall

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Mt. McKinley: Walter & Team Move to 14,000’ Camp

Posted by: Billy Haas, Mike Walter, Solveig Waterfall | May 19, 2015
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount McKinley
Elevation: 14,000'

May 18, 2015, 11:16 pm PT

Hello from beautiful 14 camp!
We arrived today under sunny skies and warm temps with light winds that gusted a bit higher as we rounded the aptly named Windy Corner.
The move took us just under 5.5 hours and everyone climbed strong and then worked extremely hard building a solid camp here in Genet Basin. Tomorrow our plan is to return to our cache at 13,600, retrieve the rest of our food and fuel, and fully set up shop here in our new location.
The views from camp are spectacular and we all enjoyed a delicious dinner of lentils and rice while familiarizing ourselves with the incredible scenery.
Our team wants to say thank you to everyone who left comments on our blog. We received them this morning and the boost in morale helped propel us into camp today!
Here are a few personal messages from the team members! Keep the positive energy coming our way!
Thanks for following along!
RMI Guide Solveig Waterfall


Hey, Christy, Phillip, gabe, Annie, things going well. Sure miss all of u. Can’t wait to see u. Hoping to summit next week or so. Love u all, Brian.

To all my family and friends, thanks for cheering us on! It’s quite the adventure, the views are incredible. We’re staying safe and I’m proud of what we’ve achieved so far. Can’t wait to go further!  Dan

Dear fam and friends, thanks for following this wild adventure. Getting chilly as we venture up higher. Looking to hit the summit within this next week.
Love you fam, go Rangers!!

To all friends and loved ones following our progress Thnk you for the posts allis well at 14 camp love you all! Kearney Sagehorn

Love hearing all the support! For my fellow Bison, I am flying the guidon at every camp and hope to take it to the summit. “Move out the Way!!” For the family, your in my thoughts constantly and look forward to getting back home safely. Brooke, give the boys a hug and kiss for me. I love you all!
- Chris

The RMI Posh tent set up at 14,000 ft Camp.  Photo: Lindsay Mann

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Mt. McKinley: Walter & Team Carry to Windy Corner

Posted by: Mike Walter, Solveig Waterfall, Billy Haas | May 18, 2015
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount McKinley
Elevation: 11,200'

May 17, 2015 - 11:05pm PST

Hello All,

We awoke this morning to decreasing winds and clear skies, which gave us the window we’ve been waiting for to carry equipment around Windy Corner and put in a cache at 13,600’. Our team climbed strong and did a great job managing the few wind gusts we sustained… staying balanced and efficient while moving to higher elevations.  We returned to camp in the late afternoon and feasted on quesadilla’s with peppers, onions, chicken, and plenty of cheese before turning in for some well deserved rest.

Our forecast is looking good and we hope to move to 14,000’ tomorrow. It’ll be a big day, so we’ll rise early and break camp in order to give us plenty of time to get settled in our new home up in Genet Basin.

Thanks for following along!

RMI Guide Solveig Waterfall & Team

Climbing Windy Corner on Mt. McKinley. RMI Photo Collection

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Alaska Seminar: Leon Davis & Team Summit Radio Tower

Posted by: Leon Davis, Lindsay Fixmer, Bridget Belliveau | May 18, 2015
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount McKinley

May 17, 2015 - 10:24pm PST

Good evening all,

Today was a great day to be in the mountains!  The sun shone bright this morning as we left camp for the north side of Radio Tower. We found great conditions moving up and the ridge offered us amazing panoramas of Mt Hunter, Foraker, and Denali. The team performed very well all day and we spent the late afternoon sitting in shade to review knots. Tomorrow will be tech training intensive here at camp.

Pancakes & bacon for breakfast!

RMI Guide Leon Davis & Team

The Summit Ridge of Radio Tower. RMI Photo Collection

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Mt. Rainier: May 18th Teams Summit!

Posted by: Seth Waterfall, Kel Rossiter | May 18, 2015
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount Rainier
Elevation: 14,410'

RMI Guides Seth Waterfall and Kel Rossiter and the Four Day Summit Climb teams stood on the summit of Mt. Rainier this morning. The teams have been in and out of clouds this morning with a trace of new snow falling and calm winds. After spending some time on the summit, the teams are making their way back to Camp Muir before beginning their descent to Paradise.

Congratulations climbers!

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Alaska Alpine Seminar: Elias & Team Ready to Fly to Talkeetna

Posted by: Elias de Andres Martos, Sean Collon, Andy Hildebrand | May 17, 2015
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount McKinley

Good morning! We’re packing up as we speak, and are scheduled to fly back to Talkeetna in the next few hours. Unfortunately we can’t report another summit from yesterday. We continued to have more snow through the early afternoon and our fears for avalanche danger were confirmed when the temps climbed up later in the day. We settled for just the approach to the lower Pika, as we tested an incredibly reactive snowpack; while no climbing, that provided a super valuable safety learning opportunity for everyone.

That’s it for now, our next post will be from civilization with some pics.

Best,
Rmi Guide ElĂ­as deAndres Martos and Team

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Mt. McKinley: Van Deventer and Team Make a Move

Posted by: Pete Van Deventer, Robby Young, Josh Maggard | May 17, 2015
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount McKinley
Elevation: 9,500'

We woke to sunny skies, and the forecasted winds didn’t arrive down low where we were. After bagel, cream cheese, and bacon filled breakfast sandwiches we crashed our camp, loaded our sleds (more and more team members are naming their sleds each day - the better to curse them by), and started the climb up Ski Hill. The steeper terrain with all of the weight of our gear was a big effort, different from yesterday’s long miles with little elevation change, but the team handled it really well, and pulled into a cozy camp at 9500’ this evening. A big meal of Mac and cheese fortified with bacon put everyone into food comas, and were crawling into the sacks for the night. Tomorrow, we plan to move to 11k to really start the process of acclimating. That’s all the news from here. We’ll be in touch tomorrow.

RMI Guides Pete, Robby, Josh, and team.

View from Ski Hill on Mt. McKinley.  RMI Photo Collection

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Alaska Seminar: Leon Davis and Team Fly to Basecamp

Posted by: Leon Davis, Lindsay Fixmer, Bridget Belliveau | May 17, 2015
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount McKinley
Elevation: 7,300'

Greetings all

We departed Talkeetna into cloudy weather and for a while there we did not think we would make it. But thanks to the skill of our K2 pilots we were able to sneak in as the skies briefly parted. As a result of our teams hard work and cooperation we now have a fortified camp. We will sleep well behind block walls and we are excited for a chance to climb the radio tower tomorrow morning. Tonight we sleep under clear blue (still) skies and just a whisper of a cool breeze.

Until tomorrow then!

RMI Guide Leon Davis & Team

An RMI Camp on the Kahiltna Glacier. RMI Photo Collection

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Previous Page More Entries

Expedition Stats

Mexico's Volcanoes
2/14 - 2/22/2015
Ixtaccihuatl - Summit / Pico de Orizaba - Summit
Expedition Skills Seminar - Winter
3/8 - 3/13/2015
Mt. Rainier - 11,200'
Mexico's Volcanoes
3/7 - 3/15/2015
Ixtaccihuatl - 15,300' / Pico de Orizaba - Summit
Expedition Skills Seminar - Winter
3/22 - 3/27/2015
Mt. Rainier - 10,080'
Expedition Skills Seminar - Winter
4/12 - 4/17/2015
Mt. Rainier - 12,400'
Everest Base Camp - Island Peak
3/18 - 4/12/2015
Everest Base Camp - Summit / Island Peak - Summit
Mount Everest Base Camp Trek
3/18 - 4/7/2015
Everest Base Camp - Summit
Mount Everest Base Camp Trek
3/21 - 4/12/2015
Everest Base Camp - Summit
Alaska Mountaineering Seminar - Expedition
5/2 - 5/12/2015
Radio Control Tower - Summit
Five Day Summit Climb
5/9 - 5/13/2015
14,410' - 12300
Five Day Summit Climb
5/11 - 5/15/2015
14,410' - Summit
Four Day Summit Climb
5/13 - 5/16/2015
14,410' - Summit
Four Day Summit Climb
5/14 - 5/17/2015
Mt. Rainier - Summit
Five Day Summit Climb
5/13 - 5/17/2015
Mt. Rainier - Summit
Four Day Summit Climb
5/15 - 5/18/2015
Mt. Rainier - Summit

Recent Images

  • An RMI team fortifies snow walls for protection from the wind at 14,000 ft on Mt. McKinley.  Photo: RMI Collection
  • An RMI team ascending Motorcycle Hill with 11k Camp of Mt. McKinley, AK in the background. Photo: RMI Collection
  • An RMI team ascending the fixed lines outside of 14k Camp on Mt. McKinley, AK. Photo: Brent Okita
  • The May 19th McKinley team preparing for the climb in Talkeetna, AK. Photo: Adam Knoff
  • The May 19th McKinley team ready to fly in Talkeetna, AK. Photo: Adam Knoff
  • An RMI Team camped at 11,200 ft on Mt. McKinley.  Photo: Rob Lindner
  • An RMI Alaska Seminar Team navigating the glacier.  Photo: Kel Rossiter
  • Prayer flags fly at Everest Base Camp with Pumori summit behind.  Photo: Jeff Martin
  • Camp at 11,200 ft on Mt. McKinley.  Photo: RMI Collection
  • The view from Kahiltna Base Camp.  Photo: Seth Waterfall
  • The RMI Posh tent set up at 14,000 ft Camp.  Photo: Lindsay Mann
  • Climbing Windy Corner on Mt. McKinley. RMI Photo Collection
  • The Summit Ridge of Radio Tower. RMI Photo Collection
  • View from Ski Hill on Mt. McKinley.  RMI Photo Collection
  • An RMI Camp on the Kahiltna Glacier. RMI Photo Collection
  • The May 17th RMI Team ascending the Emmons Shoulder at 13,000 ft en route to the summit.  Photo: Zeb Blais
  • The RMI Four Day Summit Climb Team on the summit of Mt. Rainier May 17th.  Photo: Brent Okita
  • RMI Guide Elias de Andres Martos ascends Big Arapiles in Little Switzerland, Alaska. Photo: Bridget Schletty
  • RMI Guide Elias de Andres Martos looks across the Pika Glacier towards the Trolls, from the summit of Big Arapiles. Photo: Bridget Schletty
  • An RMI team ascending the upper slopes of Mt. Rainier. Photo: Brent Okita
  • An RMI team's 11K Camp on Mt. McKinley, Alaska. Photo: RMI Collection
  • The May 14th Alaska Seminar team poses for a photo while taking a break from packing. Photo: Leon Davis