Sacramento mountaineer’s priority to climb Mt. Everest shifts to home, family

The expedition to climb Mt. Everest that included Sacramento area resident Jim Geiger was cancelled Wednesday due to conditions resulting from the icefall avalanche that killed 16 people.

International Mountain Guides partner Eric Simonson said that the perilous conditions resulting from Friday’s icefall avalanche made the route unsafe for climbing without repairs by so-called “icefall doctors.”

The Sherpa climbers who perform the work will not be able to resume their work this season.

Read more: Sacramento man abandons Everest climb in wake of avalanche

Read more: Sherpas leave Everest; some expeditions nix climbs

Geiger said in an e-mail on Wednesday before the decision to cancel the expedition that the team has been dealing with the aftermath of the avalanche.

“I saw dead bodies being flown off the mountain as they dangled from a 60 foot long line,” he wrote. “The accident was a game changer for me. My priorities shifted in an instant. Where once the goal was the top, now the goal for me shifted to family and getting home safely.”

His daughter, Shelly Dippel, said that she had a hunch he was thinking about the affect a climb would have on his family.

“I figured he would be coming home,” said Dippel. “His family is too precious to him to take that risk.”

Geiger said he was almost to the site of the avalanche the day before the Sherpas were killed. He would have had to make more climbs, up and back, to get acclimated before climbing to the summit, a prospect he no longer will attempt.

“Now I look at the western shoulder of Mt. Everest and see all the ice poised up there and wonder: ‘Is it worth exposing myself six more times to the apparent danger in the icefall to give myself a chance at the summit?’ If I was 40 years younger with no responsibilities my answer may be yes. Now a 68 year old great-grandfather, the answer is probably not. Too many people are counting on me coming home.”

Successful climbers have a desire to get to the top. Geiger wrote that the desire will return for him, but he is not sure when or where.

Geiger, 68, had hoped to become the oldest man to climb Everest. Geiger, who left Sacramento in March to climb the world’s tallest peak, trained hard for the expedition.

“Now that 16 Sherpa gave their lives my goal of being the oldest American to climb Everest is trivial and insignificant compared to what these men gave up to give people like me an opportunity to climb Everest,” Geiger said. “I am totally humbled by their sacrifice and want to respect and honor that sacrifice.”

Geiger supports higher compensation for the Sherpa in the event of a death and he has great respect for them.

“There is a silent hope throughout Everest Base Camp that a real positive change

will occur for the Sherpa and their families,” he said.

Simonson wrote that on the IMG company website that after several days of intense meetings at Mt. Shasta base camp and in Kathmandu, Nepal, among climbers, Sherpa guides, and representatives from the Ministry of Tourism, no agreement was reached on restarting the 2014 Everest climbing season.

“We have explored every option and can find no way to safely continue the expedition,” Simonson said.

The IMG team will be starting to move “down valley” in the next few days, with some walking and some via helicopter. They are joined by climbers from other expedition teams that had also been waiting at Base Camp and have also been forced to end their climbs, Simonson said.

The Associated Press reported that Friday's avalanche was triggered when a massive piece of glacier sheared away from the mountain along a section of constantly shifting ice and crevasses known as the Khumbu Icefall -- a treacherous area where overhanging ice can be the size of office buildings.