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The Everest Earthquake

Everest Earthquake pic photo Outside Online

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7.9 ?!?! Yikes!

7.9 *on Everest*

That sounds unprecedented. Is it unprecedented?

If springtime on Mount Everest has taught us anything in the past three years, it’s to expect disaster from the most unlikely scenario you can conjure. Today, April 25, just before noon local time, a 7.9-magnitude earthquake struck northeastern Nepal with its epicenter roughly 50 miles north of Kathmandu. The death toll has already been reported at near 1,000 but is certain to grow by multiples. The quake was the strongest to hit the country since an 8.2-magnitude earthquake struck in 1934, destroying nearly every building in Kathmandu and killing up to 12,000 people. The Kathmandu Valley is now home to 1.5 million, and its buildings are primarily constructed from unreinforced brick and concrete.  


Kathmandu, like Port au Prince, Haiti, is a city of nearly 1 million—with another half million in the outskirts. It’s built primarily from fired bricks packed from the red earth that’s scooped from the city’s east side. In the Himalayan villages of the Khumbu Valley, as well as near Pokhara, Rolwaling, and Langtang, the buildings are primarily constructed of quarried stone. Very little of the country’s infrastructure is built to withstand a serious earthquake. It’s a problem that experts have been warning about for years without success.

Wow. Heartbreaking. 

On Mount Everest, the quake caused hanging glaciers to fracture and release. Veteran guide Dave Hahn, who was at Camp I with his team from Seattle-based Rainier Mountaineering, phoned his office to check in unhurt, saying the quake had “resulted in avalanches off of all the mountains around us.”  

The most significant of these fell from a hanging glacier on the northern shoulder of 23,494-foot Pumori, a prominent peak on the west side of Everest whose flanks form the basin where Base Camp sits. (If you're in Base Camp looking at Everest, it is directly behind you.) The upper portion of Base Camp was blanketed by debris, with rocks and ice tearing through tents. Typically, Base Camp is insulated from avalanches by distance—camps are set back several hundred yards from any avalanche path—and by a series of sand-trap-like moraine lakes and hillocks that cut short any falling debris. But this was a hundred-year event.

International Mountain Guide partner Eric Simonson described the avalanche in a blog post:

This saddle is at 20,177 feet and Everest Base Camp is at 17,585 feet, so the difference is 2,592 feet. The tons and tons of falling ice going this vertical distance created a huge aerosol avalanche and accompanying air blast that hit the upper part of Base Camp and blew many tents across the Khumbu glacier towards the lower Icefall. Apparently the air blast and earthquake also caused many big rocks to shift, which were the cause of some of the crushing injuries suffered by climbers in the upper section of Base Camp. The camps farther down the glacier (like the IMG camp) were untouched. It is worth noting that, over many expeditions, we have never seen an avalanche in this area that was even remotely of this scale. It was truly a freak event caused by a tremendous earthquake.

Early reports have put the death toll in Base Camp between eight and 18, with many more injured. One of the few photos of the scene showed a yellow mess tent with just its steel skeleton left standing. The Himalayan Rescue Association (HRA) camp was badly damaged in the avalanche. Doctors and paramedics are currently using the International Mountain Guides camp as their base of operations. The Himalayan Experience camp is being used to house uninjured climbers who’ve lost their camps.

"Blanketed by debris." Horrifying. 

I searched PandaWhale for him and remembered he was dating Sophia Bush:

See also: Google goes to Everest...

Whoa. Those photos are scary and sad. 

Nick Sullivan changetipped a Benjamin to Nepal relief:

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