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’ ( .
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.