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Dispatch 19: Massive Collapse in Khumbu Icefall Claims the Lives of Three Sherpa Climbers

Everest 2006: Live on GreatOutdoors.com
By Dave Hahn - April 21st, 2006

Find More:
Ang Phinjo Sherpa - killed Friday, April 21st, in Khumbu Icefall.
Special Report from International Mountain Guides director Eric Simonson:

IMG expedition leader Mark Tucker reports that a big collapse in the icefall today has claimed the lives of three Sherpas, including one from the IMG team. The accident occurred partway up the icefall shortly after dawn when several large towers of ice toppled over. The rest of the IMG team is all safe. We are deeply saddened to learn that Ang Phinjo Sherpa (Phortse) died under a massive avalanche and is unrecoverable. Phinjo was our oldest Sherpa (50) and one of our very best Sherpa friends. He was a kind and gracious man, and we will miss him. He went on his first 8000 meter peak in 1973 ---this was his 49th 8000 meter expedition! Our prayers go out to Phinjo's family and the rest of our climbing team. It sounds like they are all going to take a day 'off' to get together and have a team meeting. We'll let you know when there is more to report.

Editor's Note: Below is the Official Nepal Ministry of Tourism report on the Icefall Accident

21 April 2006
Ministry of Culture, Tourism & Civil Aviation
Mountaineering Section
Kathmandu

At some time close to 7 AM on Friday, April 21, 2006, a major collapse occurred in the upper Khumbu Icefall on Mount Everest. Three Sherpa climbers were lost amid substantial ice debris. An extensive search was conducted in the hours following the accident. At approximately 9:30 AM the search was ended and the conclusion reached that no hope of recovery existed. Ang Phinjo Sherpa, aged 50, of Khunjung VDC ward # 9 Phortse, Solu Khumbu Nepal, Lhakkpa Tseri Sherpa of Mende, Dawa Temba Sherpa of Thamo are presumed dead.

April 21 was the first day of clear and calm weather following a three day storm. The icefall route had been re-established on April 20 as the storm ended and was considered to be in good condition. Consequently, many teams were moving upward through the Khumbu at the time of the collapse. Approximately ten Sherpas, carrying loads for several different expeditions, were working closely together in line at about 5630 meters in a corridor bordered by a large icewall. Eyewitnesses reported that one of two large ice towers above the area spontaneously collapsed. This caused the collapse of the second serac, or ice tower. The debris from both of these features then caused the icewall directly above the Sherpas to partially collapse. The debris struck and/or covered the last six Sherpas in the line, with three of those being completely buried. Within a short time, there were dozens of experienced climbers from many different teams at the scene to search for those lost and to assist the injured. All concurred that recovery of the dead would not be possible due to the volume and density of the ice debris. The three injured were assisted to base camp, where evaluation showed their injuries to be relatively minor. Of those lost, Ang Phinjo was working for Great Escapes Trekking on an International Mountain Guides expedition (2006 IMG Everest Expedition I led by Justin Reese Merle).

Lhakpa Tseri and Dawa Temba were employed by Asian Trekking on an Expedition led by Douglas Tumminello & Apa Sherpa (Team No Limit).

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