Guwahati: It had been snowing heavily from the wee hours. It seemed like it would never end. The whole Everest Base Camp was clad in white. The mercury plummeted below zero degree Celsius.
It was tough to leave the warmth of the sleeping bag. Coming out of the tent, we freshened up and had our breakfast. As planned, we got ready to undergo icecraft training. While tackling the dangerous Khumbu icefall on our way from the Base Camp to Camp 1, crevasses had developed and we had to cross these with the help of aluminium ladders.
We had fixed April 25 as the day for practising zumaring — using a small mechanical device to ascend on a rope — on the icewall. Despite heavy snowfall, we decided to go ahead with our plans. Around 9 a.m., we went out for training at a glacier, at the lower reaches of the Khumbu icefall. Because of the heavy snowfall, most of the Everest expedition teams had stayed put inside their tents at the Base Camp.
Our sherpa sardar, Lakpa Randruk Sherpa, had led Everest expedition teams at least 10 times. He had also successfully led teams to the world’s second highest peak, K2, and the third highest, Kanchenjunga, among other Himalayan peaks. Out of the eight sherpas in our team, seven had climbed Mount Everest more than once.
That was perhaps the reason why we did not oppose Lakpa’s move to continue icecraft training in heavy snowfall. The training spot was around 300 metres away and 200 feet above the Base Camp, located at an altitude of 17,500 feet.
By 11.45, most of our training was over. Our team doctor, Jagadish Basumatary, was practising zumaring while another member, Parag, was rappelling down. We were busy talking with Lakpa standing on an ice platform. We were about to wrap up our training for the day and return to the Base Camp.
All of a sudden, we felt the platform shaking. Soon, the entire area was trembling. We feared that the platform would cave in. When we realised that it was an earthquake, all the team members and the sherpas got together. Just at that time we heard a deafening sound from the top of the mountain and looked up. We saw an avalanche rushing down from the Nuptse peak behind us. Not only Nuptse, avalanches were rushing down from other peaks like Ama Dablam and Lola because of the temblor. The scene was breathtaking as well as frightening.
There was another deafening sound. We saw a huge avalanche rushing down from the Pumori peak in front of us. Nepali people regard the Pumori peak as the daughter of Mt. Everest. Disaster struck in the blink of a moment. The avalanche from the Pumori peak hit the Base Camp. All the equipment in our camp was swept away.
We were mute witnesses to the gigantic fury of nature and stood totally helpless. Everything was beyond our control. The merchant of death did not stop there. After completely destroying the Base Camp, the avalanche moved towards us.
Not just our lunch, the devastating avalanche swept away everything in its wake. With no tent to take shelter at night and with no food, our team was compelled to come down. Exhausted and tired, we checked into the last tourist lodge on the way to the Base Camp. It was evening, but the snow continued to fall.
Our sherpas had gone ahead of us and had set up a few camps for us on the sprawling snow-covered valley below a place called Gorakshep. However, seeing our exhausted condition, our team leader, Manash Barooah, ordered the sherpas to look for rooms in tourist lodges.
It was only after we entered our rooms that we felt some relief. With breakfast having been our last meal of the day, we were mentally and physically tired.
Our year-long preparations for the Everest expedition was thrown into total disarray by nature’s fury.
We know that we cannot continue our Everest expedition this year. Will our Everest expedition remain a dream forever?