Trek home begins for Everest climbers |

Trek home begins for Everest climbers

Joel Reichenberger

Helping out

Pitch in locally

There will be a bake sale as well as lemonade and hot dogs for sale to benefit the residents of Phortse, Nepal. The event will run from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday in Steamboat Springs at 50 East Maple St. All donations will be accepted.

Medical help at Everest

Doug Tumminello is on the board for the non-profit Himalayan Rescue Association, which operates the Everest base camp medical tent, which treats climbers, their Sherpa guides, porters and local Nepalese. He said the tent and its equipment were destroyed in an avalanche triggered by the earthquake. Donations are being accepted to help that organization at

Help throughout Nepal

The International Medical Corps is taking doncations online to help with earthquake relief at

— A pair of Steamboat Springs climbers are making their way home a week after an earthquake devastated Nepal, where they were attempting to climb Mount Everest.

Both Kim Hess and Chhiring Dorje Sherpa checked in via social media this week, saying they were safe and thanking loved ones for an onslaught of well-wishing messages.

“I cannot express my appreciation, thanks and love to everyone who has reached out,” Hess wrote Tuesday. “I am safe back at base camp and hoping to begin the long trip home tomorrow. My prayers go out to those who lost loved ones, and I ask that you all keep Nepal in your thoughts as they recover from this disaster.

“I am thankful to be alive, sad to be leaving and heartbroken by the outcome. My dream of climbing Everest lives on, and I will be back next year. Peace and love!”

Dorje, who was born in the region and now runs his own high-altitude guiding service while living in Steamboat, wrote Wednesday.

“Dear friends, I am fine,” he wrote. “I am now in Thingri, Tibet.”

The dream to climb Everest this season is over for both of them.

He was on the north side of the mountain, and though the effects of the quake weren’t as significant there, it was enough, and Chinese officials, mindful of aftershocks, closed it to climbing expectations earlier this week.

Dorje and his wife, Dawa Phuti Sherpa, moved to Steamboat Springs in 2013. Family friend Matt Tredway said Dawa had reported their Kathmandu home survived but that her sister’s house in Namche Bazaar didn’t.

Hess was temporarily trapped above the Khumbu Icefall at Camp 1, near where her team, International Mountain Guides, was when the earthquake struck. The climbers were eventually evacuated via helicopter, however, and after several more days at base camp, began trekking out of the valley to an airport in Lukla.

A backlog of 1,500 people waited when Hess’s crew arrived, so the team turned its focus to helping with recovery efforts in nearby villages, where many of the team’s climbing Sherpas were from.

“Your loved ones are making the best use of their time waiting in Phortse by helping our Sherpa families pick up the pieces,” expedition leader Greg Vernovage wrote in a blog update. “Whatever resources we had to spare at (Everest base camp) have been sent to families in need.”

Worrying from afar

Steamboat Springs mountain climber Dr. Eric Meyer was in the process of heading out on a ski mountaineering adventure in Canada when he heard the news of the earthquake, and it caused him to shudder for all the obvious reasons.

He volunteered his medical expertise to help after an earthquake rocked Haiti in 2010 and saw what such a disaster can do to a country like Haiti or Nepal.

He’s seen what an earthquake can do to a mountain climber, too.

Meyer was making his way up a South American peak when an earthquake let loose near Lima, Peru. The rumbling caused ice to break free above Meyer and his climbing partner, and the partner broke his leg when the rubble came crashing down on their heads.

They were lucky to escape with their lives.

“An earthquake can ravage an urban area, and it can also change the game on a mountain, where there are objective hazards already,” Meyer said.

Some of the difficulty, he said, is in how the mountain and valley is supplied. Severing the supply chain makes things tough on climbers and locals.

“You very rarely go in with your entire two month food supply,” he said. You’re dependent on being resupplied, and that all comes from Kathmandu, through Lukla and up the trail. Imagine if Steamboat were cutoff. How long would it take for the supermarket shelves to go empty? Probably just a matter of hours.”

Steamboat’s Doug Tumminello, who’s summited the mountain, now sits on the board for the non-profit Himalayan Rescue Association, the organization that runs the base camp medical clinic at the mountain during climbing season.

The quake led to an avalanche above base camp, which sent a wall of wind, snow, rocks and debris into the camp. That killed 19 people and savaged the association’s medical facilities, though its doctors helped in the aftermath while Tumminello was among many in the United States doing whatever they could.

“It was stunning,” he said of the news of the disaster. “That’s not something you expect at all. Avalanches occur on Mount Everest, and they are the main cause of death, but the one that hit base camp as it did was unheard of.”

Tumminello said he’s been working in the United States to raise both awarness and funds for his organization, which he said treats more than just climbers, and after losing most of its equipment last week, the list of needs is a long one.

“We treat folks in the valley, local, Sherpa people and porters, all of them in addition to climbers,” he said. “It’s meaningful community outreach.”

Donations are being accepted at

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email or follow him on Twitter @JReich9

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