By Ilan Adler
10/25/14 Update: Another tragedy has struck Nepal, as a bus veered off the road and killed 14 people. This is the same bus route that I wrote about in my 2006 Nepal Bus Trip – Blast from the Past.
Nepal has long been one of my favorite places in the world, and a look through the photo section of Putchka.com, can warrant how much I love the country. I have also written one of my favorite travel stories, about a bus trip that I took in 2006 in Nepal, on my way to the Lang Tang trek. Thus it was a real bummer to hear about the second tragedy that befell the country this week, the avalanche on the Annapurna Circuit Trek. So far more than 27 people have been reported as confirmed casualties, and rescue teams are still looking for more than 40 hikers and locals that are still missing. The New York Times has a small video about some of the hikers that survived the avalanche, which tells a bit about the distress that one can find himself in during an extreme situation like this.
This is the second mountain related tragedy in Nepal this year. About six months ago a avalanche on Everest killed 13 sherpas that were climbing the mountain and opening up the ropes for climbers that were later set to attempt the summit.
While not encountering anything like the extreme blizzard conditions that the hikers experienced here, in my travels in the Himalayas, I did have my fair share of close calls, especially since I mostly traveled solo. In one particular case I was making a solo attempt at the summit of Stok Kangri, a 6153m high peak in the Ladakh Indian Himalayas. During the first ascent, which was at the wee hours of the morning, I walked out of my tent in some pretty harsh conditions. On this day the only people crazy (or stupid; depends on how you look at it) enough to try for the summit were me and a pair of hard core crazy Germans from the tyrol, who left a little after me. It was all good till we started crossing the glacier and straight into a full on snowstorm…It was a whiteout and we couldn’t see anything really but we continued nonetheless, starting to climb at around 30 degree angle in more than knee deep snow.
I let the Germans pass since they were much quicker and kept pulling on ahead. At about 1/2 way up to the ridge I noticed them heading for me and when we met they said the weather is not good and there is too much snow. I acknowledged them and said I will continue on up and hope it clears a little. I continued trudging my way in the snow not really seeing anything for about a hour, when I conceded defeat and seeing the weather was not improving at all decided to make another run the next day. A bug part of the decision making was realizing that if anything happened to me, I would probably be a goner, with no one to assist me on the mountain. The next day I did succeed in reaching the summit, although in much better conditions.
I also had a few close calls in Nepal itself, on the Lang Tang Trek following the wrong trail, along with a few slips and falls that could have ended very different, all depending on a few inches here or there.
I’m optimistic that the ministry in Nepal in charge of tourism and mountains will learn from these two tragedies, and if needed, take the steps to help make things safer for travelers. The mountains of Nepal are a true wonder of the world, and I hope that more and more tourists will continue to visit them, and be awe inspired by them. I hope that all those injured will be able to make a speedy recovery, and offer my deepest condolences to family of friends of those who didn’t make it. On a personal side I have friends who know some of the reported victims, and it is indeed a very sad and trying time for the families of the deceased. “May they be comforted among the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem”