Helicopter needed to get Washington Everest teams; 1 medic dies

SEATTLE — Climbing teams stuck on Mount Everest need a helicopter to bring them off the mountain after following a massive Earthquake in Nepal and a subsequent avalanche on the mountain, Seattle mountaineering companies said.

There’s no safe way to climb down through the icefall above the base camp, they said. About a half-dozen Washington climbing outfits had expeditions on or near Mount Everest when the earthquake struck. The avalanche claimed more than a dozen lives.

Gordon Janow, director of programs for Alpine Ascents International, said from Seattle that he’s heard from his team on Mount Everest. They seem to be doing OK and have the food and warm clothing they need.

Janow expects his team of about six climbers plus guides and Sherpa staff to be helicoptered off the mountain sometime in the next few days. “It’s a pretty wise group of experienced guides and climbers up there,” he said.

The group is prepared to remain in place until help arrives, and they know their situation is not as urgent as the people injured in the earthquake and avalanche.

Saturday’s magnitude 7.8 earthquake killed more than 2,500 people in the Himalayan nation. The subsequent avalanche on Mount Everest buried part of the base camp crowded with climbers preparing to summit.

Guide Dave Hahn from Rainier Mountaineering says in a message on the company’s website that some Sherpa guides have tried to climb through the icefall and found it impassable.

A third Seattle-based climbing group reported a member of its team died Saturday as a result of the avalanche.

Madison Mountaineering said physician’s assistant Marisa Eve Girawong died in the aftermath of the avalanche that struck the climbers’ base camp.

In a post Sunday on the Madison Mountaineering website, Garrett Madison said the group of more than a dozen climbers and guides was climbing when the earthquake hit.

“We have been up here at Camp 2 hanging tough but we are running low on food and fuel and we have to get down,” Madison said in a telephone call, a transcript of which was posted on the website.

He confirmed Hahn’s report that there was no way to climb back down through the icefall.

“So at this point our only option to get down is by helicopter evacuation,” Madison said.

Their plan is to climb down to a lower camp, Camp 1, on Monday then fly to base camp to reconnect with other members of their expedition. He acknowledged that these plans are weather dependent.

“Our hearts go out to the family of Eve Girawong. She is loved by all of us in base camp and a great addition to our team and helped us tremendously. She will be missed greatly,” Madison said.

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