Updated: Nepal earthquake death toll tops 2,500; 17 killed on Everest

Rescuers treat the wounded and dig through the rubble in quake-stricken Kathmandu, Nepal. (cbsnews.com photo)

Rescuers treat the wounded and dig through the rubble in quake-stricken Kathmandu, Nepal. (cbsnews.com photo)

UPDATED: The Associated Press is now reporting the death toll in Nepal at more than 2,500 people, with more than a third of the casualties in Kathmandu. There are still people being dug out of collapsed ruins there and in other cities and towns across Nepal.

The New York Times is putting the death toll on Mount Everest at 17. Their deaths were caused by a substantial avalanche set loose down the Khumbu Icefall, sweeping into Base Camp and burying many people in their tents. Rescue efforts there are underway. Climbing teams are also trying to figure out how to get to people who are stranded above the icefall at Camp 1 and higher, as the route set through the icefall has been wiped out.

This video shows the scene from Base Camp as the avalanche struck:

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For the second year in a row, natural disaster has struck Nepal, but this time in the worst way possible.

A massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck the Himalayan country about noon local time, toppling buildings in Kathmandu and other cities and towns in the country while also triggering a slide on Mount Everest, where the spring climbing season is underway.

The Associated Press reports that nearly 1,200 people have been confirmed dead so far, but that the death toll is likely to rise much higher. Thousands may be injured, and there are hundreds, if not thousands, still missing. Many of the buildings in the Nepalese capital are not built to withstand powerful quakes, and this one definitely was — the strongest since an 8.2 hit Chile in 2014, and probably the deadliest since a huge quake rocked Japan in 2011.

It’s not yet known how badly damaged the smaller communities in rest of the country have fared, though the building construction problems are probably similar to what’s seen in Kathmandu.

Mount Everest. (Wikipedia Commons photo)

Mount Everest. (Wikipedia Commons photo)

On the south side of Mount Everest, the climbing season was just getting underway when the earthquake struck. The AP is reporting that 10 people were killed at Base Camp after the quake triggered a slide; another five were killed in Tibet, according to the BBC. Outside Online is reporting that the route through the Khumbu Icefall has been smashed, and there is speculation that this may end the climbing season on the mountain. If so, it would be the second year in a row that a season was ended prematurely, as a deadly avalanche shut down the mountain’s south side last spring.

The AP says this quake is the deadliest to hit Nepal in 80 years. Deaths were also reported in India and Bangladesh, though not nearly as many.

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The Weekly Stoke: Deadly avalanche in the Himalayas, a new kind of trail running, pot growing consequences and flying off the top of Everest

Kanchenjunga. (Wikipedia Commons photo)

Kanchenjunga. (Wikipedia Commons photo)

Summer is just about here! May your plans for the coming months include a whole lot of outdoor adventure. Let’s get started on this edition of the Weekly Stoke…

Mountaineering in the Himalayas goes beyond Mount Everest, and the other peaks are as dangerous or more than the world’s highest peak. Such is the case when an avalanche killed three climbers on Kanchenjunga, the world’s third-highest mountain.

Trail and road races are great, but a new trend called “fastest known time” on solo trail runs is now a growing trend. Something that may appeal to the hardcore trail runners who prefer blazing a trail in solitude.

Illegal pot growing isn’t just creating crime issues. Illegal grows on public lands are also causing significant ecological problems.

And finally, check out this story about Nepali Sherpas who paraglided off the summit of Mount Everest in 2011.

The Weekly Stoke: Surviving an avalanche, how to spot a bad partner, father-son adventuring and a new outdoorsy book

avy

We’re just a few days away from Christmas, and my guess is a lot of you have some time off to spend with family or just relax. My hope is that you’ll find some time to ski, board, snowshoe, hike, climb, run, bike, race or whatever it is you do outside while you’re off. Use your time to the fullest!

All that said, here’s an abbreviated version of the Weekly Stoke…

Not long ago, a video started making the rounds about a backcountry skier who triggered an avalanche in Utah. The slide partially buried her, despite her avy airbags deploying. That skier, Amie Engerbretson, tells her story, and does so in a detailed and humble way.

That said, stuff happens. But are there steps you can take to make sure you’re not out with bad skiing or mountaineering partners? This list shows some of the red flags you need to be looking for.

Want to see a great trip report? And the ultimate outdoor father-son adventure? Read this one from Summitpost. Beats Disneyland any day.

Finally, if you’re looking for a Christmas gift for that outdoorsy, road-trip-loving friend or family member, read this excerpt from Brendan Leonard’s new book. The guy can write, and he’s led a pretty interesting life on the road.

Have a great weekend, and Merry Christmas!

The Weekly Stoke: Ueli Steck to tackle Annapurna, non-competitive racing, extreme selfies and kayaking flooded Boulder Creek

Annapurna. (Wikipedia Commons photo)

Annapurna. (Wikipedia Commons photo)

Ah, home sweet home after a week in Colorado. Plenty to talk about, but before going any further on that, let’s get into the news of the day. Time for the Weekly Stoke!

Ueli Steck’s last trip to the Himalaya didn’t go so well, with a near brawl on Everest. But he’s back, and this time planning to tackle the range’s deadliest peak: Annapurna.

Car camping is one thing. Living out of your car is another. But how about rehabbing an entire bus? This guy is road living in style and spent maybe 5 percent of what it costs to buy a new RV.

Are running road races becoming less competitive? This writer says races are becoming less “race” and more “parade.”

Social media is filled with annoying, duck-lipped selfies, but this link has some extreme versions that are kind of cool.

Finally, this group of kayakers decided to make the best of a bad situation, riding the currents of a flooded Boulder Creek last week.

Mountaineering pioneer Maurice Herzog, 93, dies

herzog

They say there are old mountaineers and there are bold mountaineers, but no old and bold mountaineers.

But there was an exception with French climber Maurice Herzog, who along with fellow mountaineer Louis Lachenal and their team were the first to climb an 8,000-meter peak, Annapurna, in 1950.

Herzog died Friday. He was 93.

At that time of his Annapurna ascent, many attempts had been made to climb Everest, K2, and other Himalayan giants, but Herzog led the group that did it first.

This is a huge feat. While Annapurna ranks No. 10 among the world’s highest mountains, it has proven to be the most dangerous. In its history, an average of one in three people who summit Annapurna end up dead, higher than K2 (about one in four) and certainly higher than Everest. Herzog and his team not only dared these odds, but accomplished their goal without supplemental oxygen.

Annapurna is known for its difficult approaches and is prone to huge avalanches. American mountaineer Ed Viesturs, the first from the U.S. to climb all of the world’s 8,000-meter peaks, was turned back by Annapurna multiple times before finally reaching its summit.

Herzog’s book, “Annapurna,” became the most popular climbing book of all-time, according to this post from Outside Magazine, and indeed was an inspiration for Viesturs.

Herzog’s successful Annapurna summit came with a price. A rough descent left him severely frostbitten, and he lost all of his fingers and some toes.

What Herzog represents to mountaineering: He is among the first to finally break through the 8,000-meter summit barrier. We lost a pioneer who helped show the rest of the world that the daunting task of climbing the highest peaks in the Himalayas was indeed possible.

A final thought: Mountaineering was different back then. It was about exploration and national pride, and it’s fitting that a French team made the big breakthrough — climbing and mountaineering owes much to the French, who pioneered so much of modern mountaineering in the Alps (climbing/mountaineering lingo is filled with French terms). Most of the routes people climb now were established long ago by guys like Herzog.

Pause for a second to reflect what Herzog, his teammates and their predecessors did for the rest of us who are seekers of altitude.

Bob Doucette

On Twitter @RMHigh7088

11 killed, more missing on Manaslu after avalanche

Manaslu. (wikipedia photo)

Some terrible news from the Himalayas today after an avalanche killed at least 11 climbers on Manaslu, the world’s eighth-highest peak.

According to media reports, the avalanche struck climbers high on the mountain Sunday. Many of the climbers caught in the slide were said to be German or French.

Ten other climbers survived but were injured and taken to area hospitals, The Associated Press reports.

CNN is reporting that 11 were killed while AsiaNews.it is putting the death toll at 13 after the avalanche crashed into Camp 3 high on the mountain, with some 25 tents destroyed. Camp 2 lower on the mountain was also affected, though not as severely. The number of missing stands at three.

The CNN report indicates that the 5 a.m. slide was huge — with a chunk of ice the size of several football fields breaking loose, crashing into the higher camp when many climbers were still in their tents.

Manaslu (26,759 feet) is in northern Nepal near the Chinese border. The mountain and others in the Himalayas are often climbed in the spring before the summer monsoon season. Fall climbs are also conducted, though not in numbers seen in the spring. However, reports indicate that more than 200 people were on the mountain or at its base camp at the time of the avalanche.

The story is evolving, as there are not a lot of hard facts available on the full extent of the disaster.

The Adventure-Journal.com has a pretty thorough account of the avalanche here, including comments from some of the people who were there.

For more on the CNN story, including a video, go to this link.

For more on and earlier Associated Press story, go to this link.

Books: ‘The Will to Climb’ by Ed Viesturs

If you’ve followed the mountaineering career of Ed Viesturs at all, you’d know a couple of things: He’s been as successful in the Himalayas as just about anyone else alive, and he has achieved his reputation with a purist style and utmost regard for safety.

So for Viesturs to come back to Annapurna a third time after being turned back twice by the world’s deadliest mountain, you know that he is also a very driven man.

That’s’ the conflict posed in Viesturs’ third book, “The Will to Climb,” which examines his two failed attempts to summit Annapurna as well as his third and ultimately triumphant climb that made him the first American to bag all 14 of the world’s 8,000-meter peaks.

True to form from his previous books, Viesturs mixes his own experiences on the mountain with those from mountaineering’s past. The lessons learned from Annapurna echo from its history right through to his own observations while being on the slopes of this massive and incredibly dangerous peak.

Annapurna is not the highest, nor is it considered the technically most difficult of the Himalayan peaks, but it has a track record of being prone to avalanches and bad weather that take the lives of climbers at higher rates than even K2: One out of every three climbers who summit Annapurna die.

Viesturs does a great job looking through archival accounts of early ascents of the mountain — unbelievably, this peak was the first of the 8,000ers to be successfully climbed — while also taking a look at other climbs that were sometimes triumphant while other times tragic. He also dives into the personalities of those who dared to challenge the mountain, be they his friends and teammates or the more storied figures of Himalayan mountaineering royalty.

Like his book on K2, it’s more history than personal. But with “The Will to Climb,” Viesturs finds his voice a little better, and the storytelling is a little richer. I think part of that might have something to do with the fact that his love of mountaineering was born by reading the book “Annapurna,” which describes the harrowing tale of the French team that first climbed it. It also was the mountain that caused him the greatest trouble, planted the most doubt and scared him the most. By summiting it in 2005, he put a major stamp on his career and personal life.

The one common theme with all of his books, however, goes back to his mantra: Getting to the top is optional, getting back down is mandatory. The caution he describes in his adventures has often led to him turning back within sight of several summits, but he always came home safe, ready to return for another crack at the mountain.

And therein lies his key message of mountaineering, that of measuring risk and tackling a challenge while being as safe as possible. If only all climbers would heed this, there would be far fewer accidents and deaths not only in the Himalaya, but on mountains everywhere.

Bob Doucette

On Twitter @RMHigh7088