First off – everybody on the MIA team is very well. We were stuck in Khare for 3 1/2 days whilst it snowed consistently. When it began to clear there had been over 2m of accumulation with what I estimate to be about 3 m of snow fall.
The day we were due to head up to the Mera Lha, Lhakpa and I made the call to stay put. The oncoming storm looked very very ominous – if I had the chance I would have tried to get us to descend but there was no time and all our porters and equipment were in a state of disarray, then again, perhaps the forecast would be wrong and we could still try for an attempt on Mera and descend into the Honku Valley and cross the Amphu Labsta …..
The continuing snowfall put all ideas on hold. Other groups were not so lucky or perhaps wise. They had gone up to the Mera Lha and onto high camp as the storm came on. These teams were now stuck between 5300m – 5700m with no food, little fuel and potentially upto 3m + of snow. We took a window of fine weather yesterday to descend down to Thagnag as the snow abated and visibility allowed us to make out the hazardous avalanche slopes too avoid. a huge team of sherpas, porters and western climbers took about 4 hours to push 200m through almost chest deep snow to a ridgeline that allowed us to drop down to Dig Kharka where some other sherpas from Thagnag had climbed upto earlier that day. The lone tea house in Dig Kharka had collapsed, a tea house just above where we were staying collapsed just after we left Khare. The MIA team were busy in the mornings out on the roofs of the surrounding tea houses in Khare, helping to clear the accumulating snow, to avoid even more roof collapses.
We arrived in Thagnag with a clearing sky to see lights crossing the Mera Glacier at a snail pace, a rescue attempt for the teams stuck in the Mera Lha had left earlier that morning and it appeared that at least dome of them were coming back down.
This morning we left Khare to head back down to Khote. On the way down the Nepali news service reported (via radio) the apparent tragedy that had been occuring during the past 36 hours.
In the Honkuy valley, a team had been avalanched at the base of the Amphu Labsta – reports indicate that there were a number of unconfirmed deaths.
In Kongma Ding (just below the Mera Lha in the Honku Valley) a tea house roof had collapsed, again with unconfirmed deaths of the occupants inside.
At Mera High camp, the teams there had been buried under the falling snow for a number of days, their tents destroyed. Helicopters were busy all morning ferrying loads back and forth from the Mera Lha / Mera High camp to (presumably) Lukla.
We are now heading back to Lukla to then head up the Khumbu Valley to Ama Dablam basecamp. Obviously both Mera and Island peak are now off the cards and we will regroup our food and equipment and hope for better weather. The way from Khote to Lukla is open, via the snowy Zetra Lha at 4600m. Teams have been coming across the pass yesterday and today.
Our thoughts go out to all those Sherpas, climbers and trekkers who have not been so fortunate as us – at least we were warm and dry in Khare.