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Whereabouts unknown

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

Menuka Gurung had just put her ten month old son to sleep when she got calls from relatives about the Everest avalanche last Friday. Her husband Ash Bahadur Gurung (pic, below) was among the many Nepali guides who had left for Camp I from base  camp the same morning. By the time Menuka turned on the news channel, reports had started pouring in about several deaths. “I tried calling him several times, hoping and praying he wasn’t one of them, ” Menuka told us in their two room rented apartment in Galkopakha near Thamel. “We spoke last on Thursday night, just like he used to whenever he was away.”

Photo credit: Shambhala Trekking

Photo credit: Shambhala Trekking

Twenty eight year old Ash Bahadur Gurung is among the three Nepali guides along with Pemba Tenji Shrepa and Tenzing Chhotar Sherpa who are still missing after the massive avalanche that killed 13 mountaineering guides last Friday. His parents arrived Kathmandu from Gorkha last Saturday after a relative told them that their eldest son’s body was brought in the capital. It was only after they reached here that they learnt about their missing son.“How will we console ourselves without knowing what happened to our son,” says Samati Gurung with eyes full of tears. “I wish they would resume the rescue soon and bring us our son back.”

Ash Bahadur was part of several expeditions since 2008 and was planning to scale the Everest after an unsuccessful attempt few years ago. “He wanted to go abroad for better opportunities after this climbing season,” says 25 year old Menuka who tries to consoles her relatives and puts a brave face before their five year old daughter. “The rescue operation has been halted but I still try calling him everyday hoping to hear his voice again.”

STILL WAITING: (from l-r) Ash Bahadur Gurung's wife Menuka Gurung, mother Samati Gurung, younger brother Shiva Gurung and father Jitra Gurung at Galkopakha.  Credit: BIKRAM RAI

STILL WAITING: (from l-r) Ash Bahadur Gurung’s wife Menuka Gurung, mother Samati Gurung, younger brother Shiva Gurung and father Jitra Gurung at Galkopakha.

What next? (updated)

This year’s climbing season has become uncertain after Nepali guides at the Everest base camp requested all climbers to halt climbing on Tuesday afternoon as a gesture of paying respect to their 13 colleagues who were killed and 3 who are still missing after an avalanche last Friday.

“After today’s meeting we decided to stop climbing this season to honour all those who lost their lives and are still missing,” said Tulsi Gurung, a local guide and three times Everest summiter from the base camp. “Some of our friends are still missing, we cannot imagine stepping over them,” said Gurung whose brother Ash Bahadur Gurung (see box below) is among the three guides still missing after the avalanche. “It is only our request to everyone to respect the the entire community’s recent loss and we are weighing in options on what to do next,” he added.

The same afternoon the government agreed to address some of the 13 point demands put forward by various mountaineering and guide associations to look into the concerns of high altitude mountaineering support staffs. The government has decided to raise the insurance coverage of mountaineering guides and support staffs to 1.5 million rupees from 1 million rupees. Similarly, the medical coverage will also be increased to four hundred thousand rupees from three hundred thousand rupees. At a program in Nepal Tourism Board on Tuesday, officials from the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Aviation urged the guides to get back on the expedition after a week of mourning.

“We respect the decision of those who want to come back because of the recent tragedy but that doesn’t mean all expeditions will have to halt,” says Ang Tshering Sherpa, president of Nepal Mountaineering Association.


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