Chris Harling at Base Camp

Chris Harling at Base Camp

A mountain rescuer caught in the Nepalese earthquake has described the desperate situation at Everest Base Camp.

Chris Harling, a deputy team leader with Keswick Mountain Rescue Team, was leading an expedition when the quake and subsequent avalanches struck, killing 18 climbers at the site and injuring numerous others.

The death toll in the impoverished Himalayan country could reach 10,000, Prime Minister Sushil Koirala said.

All climbers who were stranded at camps one and two above the Khumbu icefall are now believed to have been rescued, with helicopters flying a regular shuttle to reach the mountaineers after earthquake-triggered avalanches destroyed the descent route through the icefall and glacier.

Mr Harling posted an update to his original message which described how large rocks and chunks of ice landed close to his tent.

He said: “The tremors continue and are familiar now. Lying here they are like the rumblings from a silent truck driving past. We are still at our base camp with no immediate desire to more from here; we are safe.

“I rarely get emotional climbing mountains – happy and joyful yes, but teary, no. Today I was teary.

“Our wonderful, vibrant and ceaselessly working team of six young Sherpas were tied between continuing our progress up the mountain, and returning somehow to Kathmandu to support their families and help rebuild damaged lives.

“The relief and emotion were palpable in their eyes when we passed on the news: we were going to abandon further progress up Everest. I felt and shared their emotional release and the tears came. And I thought I was a toughened seasoned mountain man who just guided climbers up big hills. Not today.

“The Chinese authorities effectively closed the mountain today, on safety grounds. Ice cliffs have moved, slopes have shifted, crevasses have yawned open. The experts are predicting new earthquake activity within two weeks or so.

“It’s time to pack up and find a way home. For many, many Nepalis they must find a home, make a home.”

Climber Alan Arnette gave another view of the situation high in the Himalaya on his blog.

He said the number of deaths at Everest Base Camp could be as high as 22, with more than 40 injured, mainly due to the collapse of seracs from Pumori, which brought down large rocks and a wind blast.

He said more than 150 climbers were airlifted by helicopter from camp one on the Western Cwm – two at a time – with four-minute flights by pilots. Many teams have left Base Camp and others are preparing to leave, he added.

Dave Turnbull, chief executive of the British Mountaineering Council, said: “We are currently gathering information about any of our members involved.

“We are aware of a number of BMC members who are currently in Nepal, some of whom were on Everest. We are relieved to hear of the successful helicopter rescue from camp one.

“Our thoughts are with the communities of Nepal, the climbers and everyone affected by the earthquake at this tragic time.”

Mark Richardson of Sherpa Adventure Gear, which is made in Kathmandu, told the BMC: “The people in the Sherpa factory in Kathmandu are thankfully OK and our chief executive Tashi Sherpa is on the ground in Kathmandu. Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone involved. We are looking at having a fundraiser in place over the next day or so.”

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said anyone worried about friends or relatives in the region can ring (0) 207 008 0000.

The Disasters Emergency Committee has started an appeal.

Community Action Nepal, which was set up by mountaineers to aid people in the Himalaya, is also accepting online donations.

Some articles the site thinks might be related:

  1. Up to 20 climbers feared dead as quake triggers avalanche at Everest Base Camp
  2. Seven British Everest trekkers die in Kathmandu plane crash
  3. Cool makes progress on Everest as Friday summit beckons
  4. Bonita salutes woman who took her Everest record
  5. British teenager aims for Seven Summits record with Everest attempt