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Killer avalanche shocks former guide

Tragedy on Mount Everest hits home for LOs Tendu Sherpa


by: REVIEW FILE PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Tendu Sherpa, a former mountain guide in Nepal, knew all about the dangers of Mt. Everest. He led seven treks up the giant peak in the 1980s. Sherpa owns a computer repair business in Mountain Park.An avalanche on Mount Everest is usually not a surprise.

But the avalanche that struck last Friday was a shocker. A massive amount of ice suddenly came crashing down on 16 Nepalese guides and killed at least 13 of them; three others are missing and presumed dead. It was the highest number of people ever killed on perhaps the most challenging mountain peak in the world. Everest is the tallest mountain in the world, reaching 29,029 feet.

It was the kind of event that stuns the entire world, but for Tendu Sherpa of Lake Oswego it was truly overwhelming. A native of Nepal, Sherpa personally guided seven trips up Mount Everest in the 1980s, and he was a friend of the fathers of three of the victims. He had experienced many avalanches himself in his years as a guide, including one that nearly killed him. But he had never seen an avalanche like the one that happened on Friday.

“You do get avalanches on Everest, but you don’t get ice like that,” said Sherpa, who owns his own computer repair business at Mountain Park. “The saddest part was so many young people died in the avalanche. Once you are inside an avalanche it’s pretty much over.” by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Mt. Everest in Nepal can be as dangerous as it is awesome. On April 18 a deadly avalanche killed at least 13 guides - three others are missing and presumed dead - the most ever killed in a single incident.

Like so many people, Sherpa is searching for reasons why the avalanche turned out to be so deadly.

“I know exactly where that happened, and it shouldn’t have been that dangerous,” Sherpa said. “When you are a mountain guide you have to be very careful not to make a mistake. Things will happen that will give you signs of danger, like a little earthquake. Lots of times when those things happen it’s due to making bad decisions and not taking enough time. With 16 guides there should have been one of them who could have seen a sign that something was not right.”

Despite the high possibility of human error, there was also government neglect involved.

“There are too many people climbing Mount Everest now,” Sherpa said. “The ice got heated and it wouldn’t hold. The Nepalese government is too corrupt and greedy to do anything about it.”

The lack of life-saving restrictions is understandable if not forgivable. Sherpa said a climber pays the government $80,000 for the right to climb Mount Everest.

The recent disaster brought back strong memories of Sherpa’s own days as a mountain guide. He had his own brushes with death.

“We were more careful than today’s climbers,” he said.

But not all of the climbers of Sherpa’s day were careful.

“One time I was ready to stop and have some tea,” he said. “But two climbers were in a hurry and they rushed ahead.”

They rushed right into an avalanche.

“By the time the rest of us got there there was nothing,” Sherpa said. “No roads. No people. In Nepal everything is so deep.”

One time Sherpa missed being caught in an avalanche by the narrowest of margins. As the snow came crashing down, Sherpa managed to get under a boulder.

“I could feel the snow going over my back,” he said.

Sherpa never climbed another mountain after coming to America in 1986. But in 1996 he was ready for some déja vu, planning for a mountain journey with his wife Kathy Long. Something happened that changed his mind.

“Scott Fisher died while climbing Mount Everest that year,” Sherpa said. “He was a good friend of Kathy. I had met her through Scott.

“After that I swore off climbing.”



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  • 1 Oct 2014

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