Joining Hands for Nepal: FoCo mountaineers describe their experience on Everest during Nepal quake

Madison Brandt

Professional mountaineers and Fort Collins locals Jim Davidson and Alan Arnette spoke at Colorado State University Tuesday about their experience on Mount Everest this past spring when the Gorkha earthquake hit Nepal.

The presentation was hosted by the CSU Office of International Programs and the Nepali Students Association (NSA) as a fundraiser to help build schools in local Nepalese villages and towns that were lost during the earthquake. The entire event received over $1,400 in donations, many of which were primarily from CSU students, according to Assistant Director of International Initiatives Shauna Deluca.

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The Gorkha earthquake hit Nepal at 11:56 p.m. (NST) April 25 with a magnitude of 7.8 Mw, ranking it as one of the worst earthquakes to occur in Nepal in nearly 81 years, according to Davidson and Arnette.

More than 23,000 people were seriously injured and over 9,000 people were killed from the earthquake, according to a report completed by the United States Geological Survey.

Arnette was at Camp 2 of Everest and Davidson at Camp 1 when the earthquake shook the mountain, causing massive avalanches to crash down around them.

“My tent was hopping up and down like a raft on water,” Davidson said. “All I could do was kneel down on one foot outside my tent and hope I was in a safe spot.”

Using satellite phones, Arnette was able to contact members of his team and Base Camp to learn of everyone’s condition.

“It will be imbedded in my mind forever, the moment when my trip leader told us the condition of Base Camp,” Arnette said. “He said, ‘Base Camp has been decimated. Everything is gone.’”

Their dreams of summiting Everest were immediately negated, according to Arnette and Davidson.

“People first, the summit second,” Davidson said. “That is always true for every mountian.”

According to Arnette, The ropes and ladders used to get to Camp 2 were destroyed by the initial earthquake and further damaged with each subsequent aftershock, so they were rescued with helicopters and taken down to Base Camp.

“Entering Base Camp was like entering a war zone,” Davidson said.

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According to Davidson, over 100 tents were destroyed by a rock and ice slide that came down from the saddle between Pumori and Lingtren, two large peaks located directly above Base Camp.

Despite the devastation of the avalanche, the rock climbing and Nepalese communities came together to tend to those who were wounded, retrieve lost gear and rebuild what was destroyed.

“I was very, very impressed with how much people pulled together,” Arnette said. “There was an unparalleled sense of community at Base Camp and beyond.”

The Gorkha earthquake is a lesson of resilience, Davidson said. He said he learned quickly at Base Camp how important it was to spread optimism to those around him and find ways to improve a traumatic situation.

Arnette and Davidson said one way to improve a traumatic situation, such as the one in Nepal, is to reach out to others, which was exactly what they aimed to do during their presentation Tuesday.

“This is about making a contribution to education,” Arnette said, referring to the presentation and selling of Davidson’s book, “The Ledge: An Inspirational Story of Friendship and Survival.” All profits from the books and donations were given to the dZi Foundation. Davidson sold 48 books Tuesday.

According to their website, the dZi foundation uses monetary donations to buy materials for rebuilding schools and homes in Nepal, as well as train local parent-teacher associations to foster improvement in school communities.

“Despite being here at the base of the Rockies, thousands of miles away from my home, I still feel the crisis of what is going on in Nepal,” said NSA President Ajit Karnal, who is studying for his Ph.D. in microbiology. “Thank you to all of the CSU students and staff for joining our hands in learning about Nepal and how to help.”

Collegian Sustainability Beat Reporter Madison Brandt can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @Mademia_93.