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October 19, 2015

Nepal trekking: Onward and upward

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ICEFALL DOCTORS

A team of elite guides,  “icefall doctors” are engineering a safe route across the Khumbu glacier, toward Sagarmatha’s peak (Mt Everest), in the aftermath of last summer’s earthquake in Nepal:

Work starts early: “If it’s good weather and we are at Base Camp, I start work at six in the morning. If I am at Camp 1, I’ll start at 2am. And when the weather is bad, we just sit in our tents and play cards with my friends. Every night I hear the sound of avalanches but I am used to it now so I don’t feel afraid,”
– Nima Dorchi, icefall doctor on Sagarmatha

The Nepalese government has issued 36 expedition permits for this fall, in spite of harsh autumn weather.

Reforms have marginally improved conditions and pay for guides and support staff but more needs to be done. Nonetheless, many people from Khumbu valley region around Sagarmatha have profited enough from mountaineering work to launch professional and business careers in the capital, Kathmandu.

BASE CAMP TREK
Although this year’s  only attempt at the summit of Sagarmatha was not completed because of heavy snow, the Base Camp Trek was expected to be in good order, with trail conditions and many of the teahouses along the way having been repaired.

A novice trekker recently arrived at Base Camp said, “I’ve never attempted anything like this before. I’ve never even been camping and I’m a bit disturbed to note that I won’t be able to have a shower until day 11!”
Karen Shakespeare

She also said that although she never even slept in a sleeping bag before, she is now excited to be tackling the physical and mental challenges.

OMORI’S LAW
The frequency of aftershocks decreases roughly with the reciprocal of time after the main shock: n(t) = k/(c+t), where k and c are constants, which vary between earthquake sequences.

According to these equations the rate of aftershocks decreases quickly with time. Thus whatever the probability of an aftershock is on the first day, the second day will have 1/2 the probability and the tenth day will have approximately 1/10 the probability of the first day.

THIN AIR, STRONG BONDS HIGH IN THE HIMALAYAS AND NEPAL

“We went to Nepal in mid-February for three weeks. Our main goal was to hike to Mount Everest’s base camp; in particular, the landmark Kala Patthar viewing point.

“We will never forget the wonderful feeling of making it to the top of Kala Patthar. At that altitude, the oxygen is less than half of what it is at sea level. Every step uphill we took two deep breaths, and these were not long steps. It was truly an event of a lifetime, something that stands out above the other many great trips we have taken.

“Six weeks after our return to the States, our guide’s grandmother and 9-year-old niece were killed in the earthquake. We have since sent him money to help him rebuild. From e-mailing with him and others, we have heard that the trekking routes in the Everest region are again open. We would certainly go back.”