The Day the Earth moved – in Nepal — Steve Ellingham — 5th October 2015.

Steve, a member of the Austrian Alpine Club, and a keen trek­ker for many years, shared with us his exper­i­ence of his most recent trip to Nepal in April (2015),  to reach the summit of Mera Peak, at 6476 metres high. From the summit it is pos­sible to see 5 of the 6 highest moun­tains in the Himalayas.
An ice pick and cram­pons, shoes con­sist­ing of a flex­ible inner thick foam shoe, and a rigid outer shoe, as well as a sleep­ing bag to cope with tem­per­at­ures of -50C, were some of the neces­sary kit he required for some of the trek.
Travelling without his normal trekking com­pan­ion or his wife, on this exped­i­tion, he arrived at the pre­cari­ously perched Lukla air­port, at a height of 2845 metres, via Kathmandu. With a Sherpa guide, port­ers and one other climber they set off on a gradu­ally ascend­ing route, designed to assist in alti­tude accli­mat­iz­a­tion. As they climbed the accom­mod­a­tion got pro­gress­ively more prim­it­ive but the scenery became more and more spec­tac­u­lar. However, one morn­ing when they were just a few days away from the summit his vision went blurred and shaky. Steve thought that he was having a stroke brought on by the alti­tude, but then he saw expres­sions of shock in the other party member’s eyes and real­ised they were exper­i­en­cing it as well. It turned out to be the major earth­quake which hit Nepal on 25th April, killing 9000 people and injur­ing many more, as well as dam­aging vast swathes of prop­er­ties. With after­shocks, and reports that vil­lages fur­ther up the track had been dev­ast­ated, in con­sid­er­a­tion for the vil­la­gers plight, they made the decision to make their way off the moun­tain, and head back for Lukla air­port by the shortest route.
Having phoned rel­at­ives and received more news of the cata­strophe, he was unable at first to get a flight out of Lukla, which was being used as an emer­gency sta­ging post for the dead and injured in the outly­ing areas.
With some dif­fi­culty, delays, and a diver­sion to Biratnagar, Steve returned to the UK, to the relief of his family, but not before wit­ness­ing some con­sid­er­able destruc­tion.
Complete col­lapse of walls of build­ings built without mortar, the pop­u­la­tion in tents with the mon­soon and winter approach­ing, anim­als killed when barns col­lapsed, seed and crops des­troyed, water mixing with sewage, miss­ing per­sons, roads blocked and the UNESCO Heritage site of Bhaktapur dev­ast­ated, to men­tion but a few situ­ations.
Relief was hampered by com­pet­i­tion between India and China who wanted to be seen to be at the fore­front of the effort, which meant 3 Ckinook heli­copters provided by the RAF were not able to fly, and there was cor­rup­tion at the bor­ders with relief lor­ries trying to get into the coun­try by road.
The photos he showed us of the after­math were acquired from people in Kathmandu, and from his Sherpa, with whom he had formed a friend­ship, and who sup­ports the not for profit organ­isa­tion ‘Medical Healthcare Centres in Remote Villages’ (www.sherpahealthcare.org) .
Steve donated his fee to this cause, to add to the con­sid­er­able funds he has already raised to date, much to their appre­ci­ation.
The talk was very inform­at­ive, and enjoyed by the mem­bers.