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Everest 2016: Minute of Silence and Helicopter Traffic

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At 11:56 a.m. on April 25, 2016, climbers and staff at Everest basecamp stood at together for a minute of silence. It was one year to the minute that an avalanche, caused by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake, crashed down off Pumori and killed 19 people. The earthquake killed thousands and injured over 20,000 and many places in Nepal have hardly recovered.

“This was an opportunity to remember those who died, those who were injured and the many people who worked so hard to rescue and treat the 100 patients.” American climber Rachel Tullet wrote on Jagged Globe.  “We also remember the huge number of people affected across Nepal by the devastating earthquake, many of whom are still struggling to rebuild their lives.”

In many places, people are still living in temporary shelters made of bamboo. Alpinist Ralf Dujmovits from Germany has been assisting with recovery and says it could take up to 10 years. He has been assisting with the reconstruction of a school in the village of Thulosirubari that was destroyed. The government has done little to help and Dujmovits has been part of a campaign that has raised one-third of the money needed. For more info visit the donation page here.

Last weekend, Jennifer Peedom’s documentary Sherpa aired on the Discovery Channel. It covers many aspects of the Sherpas’ lives , from culture and history to family and their role on Everest. Karma Sherpa talks about Sherpas in this 17-minute documentary called Sherpa Path.

The Sherpa film follows Phurba Tashi during the 2014 season when an avalanche killed 13 Sherpas and three Nepalese guides. One of the Sherpas was Ang Kaji Sherpas, who you can watch in an interview here. He talks about how he copes with fear and the importance of respect. “All clients are our god,” Kaji said. “We have to be honest and do our best for them. But the client has to be respectful of us too. If the conditions are not good and there is too much risk, then I cannot accept. Life is more important than money.”

Over 30 people have died on Everest in the past two years, but that hasn’t stopped nearly 300 climbers from heading there this year for a chance to reach the summit. Over 30 expeditions have registered for the 2016 season. A number of applicants were denied permits, as part of a new rule to limit the number of inexperienced climbers on the mountain. One of those climbers was 12-year-old American Tyler Armstrong, who has already climbed three of the seven summits – Kilimanjaro, Elbrus and Aconcagua.

The Icefall Doctors established a new route through the Khumbu Icefall early in the spring. Over the past few weeks, climbers have been humping loads from basecamp to camp one and helicopters have been helping. It is the loudest year ever on Everest, as the noise from helicopters has filled the air on clear days. They have been transporting materials from Lukla to Namche Bazaar and up to basecamp. “A big part of material transport is done by helicopter,” said Ang Dorjee Sherpa who owns a lodge in Namche said to climber Stefan Nestler. “That’s almost cheaper than the transportation by mules.”

Darek Eland is the first-ever artist in residence at the Everest basecamp and he recently posted this photo and said, “At times it feels like I’m in a movie up here,” as a result of the helicopter traffic.

The use of helicopters has reduced the number of trips through the Khumbu by nearly 100. They are carrying ropes and oxygen to camp one at about 6,000 metres. The helicopter flights are a big relief to a number of the Sherpas who report the Khumbu is more dangerous than ever. “I have never seen so many cracks and deep holes on the path to the summit of Sagarmatha,” said Ang Kami Sherpa with the Icefall Doctos. “It’s dangerous this year.”