A Sacramento climber attempting to become the oldest American to summit Mount Everest has posted a message on his blog, reassuring family and friends that he is OK after a deadly avalanche swept down a climbing route on the peak.
Jim Geiger, 68, of Sacramento arrived at Everest base camp earlier this month and had been acclimating himself to the thin air.
“This morning at 6:00 a.m. local time a big serac (ice chunk) came down in the icefall killing 15 or 16 Sherpa and seriously wounding several others. We initially heard 5 or 6, but in talking with the guys that were up there and made in back down safely the count will be a lot higher, making it the worst disaster in Everest history.”
The AP reported that the Sherpa guides had gone early in the morning to fix ropes for other climbers when the avalanche hit them at about 6:30 a.m., Nepal Tourism Ministry official Krishna Lamsal said from the base camp where he is monitoring rescue efforts.
An injured survivor told his relatives that the path up the mountain was unstable just before the avalanche. As soon as the avalanche hit, rescuers and climbers rushed to help.
Geiger is hoping to break the record for the oldest American climber, a mark held by Bill Burke who made it to the summit and back at age 67. The oldest man to climb Mount Everest is Yuichiro Mirua of Japan, who reached the summit at age 80.
Before he left Sacramento in late March, Geiger said that he was in the best shape of his life. Geiger has climbed many of the highest peaks in the world. To prepare for Mount Everest, Geiger’s training included hauling a 65-pound backpack up hills.
His blog post thanked those who had worried about him:
“We have been watching the recovery efforts all morning. Several of our people were really close and came back down immediately. I was up there yesterday a little below where the accident happened and I can tell you that it is a big jumble of ice. But I’m back in base camp safe. Thanks for all of your prayers.”
The AP also reported that the avalanche hit an area nicknamed the “popcorn field” for its bulging chunks of ice and is just below Camp 2, Ang Tshering of the Nepal Mountaineering Association said. Camp 2 sits at an elevation of 21,000 feet on the 29,035-foot mountain.
One of Geiger’s daughters, Shelly Dippel, who lives in Illinois, was relieved when she learned that her father was safe. She had been frantically searching for 45 minutes on the Internet to find out news about the avalanche when an email arrived from her father.