Made it Home

On May 7, Ricardo was finally able to fly home to Denver, Colorado.

The week he arrived he gave interviews to Colorado Public Radio, Fox News and Univision who contacted him to find out more about the Everest events. You can listen to the Colorado Public Radio interview here:

May 4

Thank you all for your continued financial support! I am very glad you are all enjoying my posts and my photos (I just posted several more photos on Facebook). I will continue sharing this Nepal experience with some Facebook posts but more importantly with the report I will prepare exclusively for all of you donors with the best images and detailed descriptions. I am flying back to the US this Wednesday. When I get home I will get to work on this.

I did not expect more financial support when I got off the mountain but it has been such a happy and wonderfully helpful surprise in this extremely expensive expedition, especially with all the added costs that arose from the expedition being cancelled a month before it was originally scheduled to end! Thank you all for your new donations!!!

May 2

Dear friends and family,

I apologize for the message being cut. The power goes out every day several times a day here in Kathmandu and so the internet gets cut off when you least expect it.
As I was saying I feel extremely fortunate, grateful and moved by your generosity. Your donations are helping a lot at a time when I’m stuck in Kathmandu trying tout a plug to this money drain!! With your donations I will now be able to fly back home next week to start working and paying back the debt from this expedition. All your donations from the beginning of this campaign and continuing now are helping enormously to make this huge money investment I made more manageable. The more money raised the less years I will have to be working just to pay for this expedition where tragically many people died and no one got a chance to climb. The total cost of this expedition has been around $55,000 dollars. The almost $32,000 that you have contributed are a HUGE help to pay for that! You have given me a chance to come and try the biggest mountain in the world, unfortunately the biggest tragedy on Everest happened this time and a historical event has happened where no one gets to climb.
Some of you, have even more generously offered to donate again for me to try this again in the future.

I cannot describe how moved I feel about such noble gestures!
But I do not want to take anyone’s money for a future climb unless there is some assurance that this fiasco won’t happen again.

Many things have to be settled before we even think of embarking on another huge project like that. Things like; will the Nepal government actually honor their promise to not charge us the $10,000 permit if we come back to try Everest again in the next 5 years. That would of course make the climb $10,000 cheaper (or more since they are saying the permit will now cost $11,000 per person).

I would have to get on my feet financially too before I would even think of trying Everest again.
Anyway, just sharing my thoughts for those of you who have so generously offered to support me again!!

Above all this experience has shown me how kind and generous people can be and that will be a truly unforgettable part of this project. I will always be grateful with you all. I hope I get a chance to give back to you as much as you have given me!

For now I will try to visit a few more interesting sites in Kathmandu to share with you a trip report that is as interesting and stimulating as possible…to try to make te most out of your money!
Thank you all!!

May 1

Thank you so much to everyone that has made donations in the last 48 hours! Your donations are helping me get home!! I really appreciate that! Looks like with your help and hopefully a few more donations I will be able to go home next Wednesday May 7! I really, really appreciate that!!! I am very fortunate to have your support and I am looking forward to being back home to share this experience with you all! THANK YOU!!!

April 29

Thank you to everyone that is making donations now! This will really help me get back home next week instead of being stuck in Kathmandu for more than two weeks spending more money and making nothing. Your donations are really helping me right now! Thank you so much!!! You are all amazing!!

April 28

$25,000 is the debt I end up after Everest. That is a lot of money for a musician/mountain guide for me and it will probably take me 8 or 10 years to pay back. But that is the price I pay for trying to climb Everest. I really appreciate all your donations past and recent. I am very grateful for all your generosity and I am also very sorry for the outcome of this expedition. I hope you can all see that we fought until the end to keep the expedition going but in the end it became impossible.
I am now trying to find a way to get back home as soon as possible but it looks hard. I went to the office of Korean Airlines and the first flight they can put me on is May 15!! I am looking for alternatives because I need to get back home and start working and generating money to pay my debt. Let’s see what I can do.

April 27

Everything went to hell after the avalanche on Everest! There was a small group of Sherpas that used this tragedy as an opportunity to make demands from the government unfortunately this was the wrong way to handle things as now we are all screwed! These Sherpas mobilized a lot of other Sherpas to essentially go on strike and abandon their expeditions. Phil Crampton (our expedition leader) and Russel Brice took a helicopter to Kathmandu to talk directly to government officials to try to get the Sherpas their demands met so the climbing season would be saved. This way we could climb, the Sherpas could get what they want and not be hurt financially. The government said to Phil and Russel that they would agree to all demands and would make sure the climbing season would continue.

When the government officials showed up at base camp they basically told the Sherpas they were with them. No Sherpas on the mountains as they wanted and that they would discuss their requests after the climbing season. Then in English they told us they were with us! They were supporting us!…now let me translate what this meant! The government completely lied to Russel and Phil! They did not meet the demands of the Sherpas at all! They will probably not give them anything they want. The government has officially kept the mountain open. Why? Because they know nobody can climb now without the Sherpas fixing ropes and also because some Sherpas have threatened some westerners that if they did not leave within 7 days there’d be trouble! By stating that the mountain is open the government wants to avoid having to explain why they are not giving back any of the $10,000 dollar permits each of us paid. As far a they are concerned we are free to climb! The Sherpas are getting screwed once again by the government who will probably do nothing for them. The strategy of the small group of Sherpas who got this movement going now got us climbers screwed having paid millions of dollars to the Nepal economy as well as directly to the Sherpa community while having no chance to climb. They have screwed other Sherpas now because many of them wanted to continue to work and earn their living. Remember that these climbing Sherpas make 10 times more in one climbing season than the average ANNUAL income for Nepalis. Sherpas will probably hurt next years as business could be down from western companies not trusting they can do business safely in Nepal. Now the families of the dead are most likely guaranteed they will not get assistance from the government! Luckily assistance is coming from 1st world countries and organizations like the American Alpine club and many others.

The small group of Sherpas that mobilized the masses screwed the other Sherpas, themselves and us. The government screwed everyone!
Everybody loses! This is a total mess!

The mountain may be officially open but everyone has to leave now, not just because there is no Sherpa support but because if anyone tries to climb they can be threatened (foreign or Sherpa both).

Climbers are all moving out of base camp quickly. Most climbers are out now. Sherpas and guides are still there tearing down base camp and organizing porters to move the tons of gear down the mountain (including all of our personal gear. We hiked and flew with just a medium sized backpack full).

Many Sherpas, like our team are very hard working, professional, loyal and great wonderful people. These other Sherpas (many of them of the younger generation with a heavy Maoist influence) are unfortunately giving all Sherpas a bad name and handled things in a very distructive way.
Who is to blame for this human tragedy having turned into this political and financial mess? I think it’s a result of people handling a tragedy in a very emotional, irrational way. Acting without thinking things through. Mob mentality is also to blame. Religion and superstition as always also bring their destructive contribution! In this case the belief that the mountain gods were angry and made the mountain dangerous did not help. Then the high lama at Tiangboche monastery makes a typical statement of religious leaders claiming to know things they cannot possible know! He said: “there will be more deaths on the mountain this season!” Unfortunately the Sherpas are very religious people! Why do they listen to this man say something he cannot possibly know? Because of faith, because it’s so much easier to have faith than to think rationally and on your own. Why did they listen to these other Sherpas and became a mob that forced all Sherpas to abandon the climb? Because those leaders said things that felt right! Because they were not thinking rationally, intelligently into the future, realizing this was going to hurt them more than help them.
Complicating all of this is a very corrupt government that doesn’t give a damn about the small Sherpa population in their country. They are happy dispatching BS everywhere and keeping millions of dollars received in permits for their personal benefit. They don’t seem to grasp or care that this will hurt Nepali’s tourism, economy and the Sherpa.

Some of the Sherpas turning against westerners is just absurd. It was the fact that we have to pay for Sherpas rescue insurance that made it possible for helicopters to rescue survivors from he avalanche. It is some of the guiding companies who are giving money directly to the families of the dead.

Of course not all westerners treat Sherpas as good as we do or take care of them as Phil’s company does. But all of them bring income directly to the Sherpa community paying wages, using tea houses on the trek, buying food and paying like we did for internet ($10 per hour, which is a lot of money in Nepal!) or for charging electronics (also about $10 per hour on some of the highest lodges). These are just a few examples of many ways we contribute to their economy. All the tons of gear at base camp has to be brought there on foot and with yaks. All of this gets paid in cash. All of this plus the thousands of Trekkers contribute to be the main source of income of the Sherpa community today. All of this may suffer because of how badly things were handled!
Like I said on my interview with Discovery channel at base camp.
If us abandoning our Everest expedition, my lifelong dream, would somehow help the families of the dead, I would feel a lot better about this. Unfortunately I don’t think it’s helping at all. I think it’s going to hurt them in the long run! How absurd is all this!!

Like I said before, the most tragic part of this is the death of the poor Sherpas that were on the mountain doing their job and the pain they leave behind with their loved ones.
That’s the most serious thing that happened on the mountain. The rest is now a very complicated and messy thing that is hurting everyone and will continue to hurt many people in Nepal unless pressure can be put on the Nepali government to start having some resemblance of decency and care for their citizens and some integrity when dealing with foreigners.
Also I hope the Sherpa community can find a better way to handle things so they won’t hurt themselves so badly.

I am very disappointed and frustrated on how things played out. At the same time I am very glad to be alive. If we would have left an hour or two earlier we could have been all killed in the avalanche. I realize the immense fortune I have to be alive, to live a great quality of life in a country where the government doesn’t screw its people in such a blatant and disgusting way. The US government can be blamed of many things but it does give citizens like me the opportunity to make a living as a musician and a mountain guide with very good and safe living conditions.
I am very lucky to have been born where I was born, to a family like mine. I am fortunate to have the opportunities and quality of life that I have.

Yes, now I have to pay a $25,000 dollar debt for a climb I never had the chance to make. That is a lot of mon

(Message cut by power cut in Kathmandu)

April 24

Quick update while I have internet access here on Gorakshep (a village 2 miles down the valley from Base camp).

A lot of sherpas and climbers are leaving base camp. There is obviously a deep feeling of mourning around base camp. We have all been very affected but this huge tragedy. Our sherpas have been wonderful and we are giving them time to relax and process this. If they want to continue I know Phil and I want to continue the expedition and I believe most or all of our team members will want to also. No decisions are being made in our expedition right now, but many of the big companies are pulling the plug on their expeditions. We all feel very sorry for the deaths of the 17 sherpas and even more for their families.

I know the American Alpine Club and other organizations are already raising money to help the families (besides the money the will receive from the outfitters and the insurance every outfitter must pay for each sherpa). We want to be very respectful to all the sherpas and their loss and even more our sherpas who have been so professional and so wonderful with us. If our sherpas decide they do not want to continue we will have to respect their decision, but so far it looks like they will want to continue. I will keep you all updated.

April 23, 2014 Everest base camp

Yesterday, while I was in Gorakshep sending my dispatches a Puja and a general meeting was held in base camp with Sherpas and western expedition leaders including Phil Crampton and Russel Brice. Some outspoken Sherpas keep demanding their requests granted by the government AND they also want to go home without putting any more work with full pay!

The older Sherpas being much wiser realize that if they all go home now everyone will suffer! They may not get anything from the government, they will not get paid in full, they will lose their job as many large outfitters are threatening to not come back to Nepal anymore and the families of the dead will not receive additional compensation.

Things have taken a turn for the worse now as some of Himex clients have been threatened by some Sherpas that if they don’t leave within 7 days there will be trouble!

This is a very disturbing twist as so far this was not a struggle between westerners and Sherpas but now some Sherpas are beginning to direct their anger towards westerners!

Himex leader Russell Brice (famous for the discovery channel Everest TV shows) and our leader Phil Crampton have asked the government to bring military personnel to base camp to keep things stable!

They both took a helicopter yesterday from base camp to Kathmandu to meet with other leaders of the big outfitters and go talk directly to the high ranking officials in the government of Nepal.

They want to encourage the government to agree to the terms of the Sherpas so the expeditions can resume. Obviously in this case the government and the outfitters would expect the Sherpas to resume the work they were contracted to do.

The best scenario as I see it is if the trouble maker Sherpas that are insisting that everyone leave actually leave! And let the other Sherpas who want to work…stay and work and us climbers climb!

We are being dragged into this whole political nonsense when all we came to do here is to climb and we have all contributed a lot of money to the Sherpa community and to Nepal to do this! Western countries will probably donate a lot more money to the families of the victims than anyone else. This is definitely not fair to us! And now to begin to receive threats is completely insane! We have nothing against the Sherpas and in fact we are the ones trying to help get their demands met!

It’s absolutely crazy!

Our Sherpas and us (altitude junkies) continue together and in very good and friendly terms.

This is reaching very critical proportions and I imagine we will know soon if this whole thing is going to get solved or if we need to leave the mountain!

I’ll continue to keep you updated as I am able.


April 19, 2014 Everest base camp

As you can all imagine yesterday’s tragedy here on Everest affected us all!

We left our base camp at 6:30 am with the objective of going to the icefall and getting to some of the tricky sections where we have to use ladders to cross big crevasses and to climb up large ice blocks. It wasn’t set how far between base camp and camp 1 we would get. The goal was to get some practice on the ladders and tricky terrain, gain some altitude and get to some exercise to further our acclimatization to prepare us for our first rotation. Our first rotation will be an ascent of the icefall to camp one which is about 19,700′ high. After a night there we will continue through the icefall to camp two at roughly 21,300′. The icefall, as I said earlier is that section where the Khumbu glacier falls over steep rock steps forming a giant frozen and broken waterfall of giant ice blocks that shift and move as the massive glacier gets pulled down by gravity. The icefall begins between camp 2 and camp 1 and ends next to base camp. Base camp is set on a not so active section of the glacier, though every night in my tent I hear how the ice under me cracks loudly and shifts ever so slightly. This is a very active glacier and the icefall is the most dramatic example of it’s activity.

Deaths on the icefall usually occur when people don’t clip in to the rope and lose their balance crossing those ladders with crampons on, or when those giant ice blocks shift when a person is crossing causing them to either fall in a crevasse or to be crushed by an ice block. To put things in perspective every year hundreds of people cross and the Sherpas cross many times each season without incidents. Once in a while collapses happen which require the route to be maintained and of course the most unlucky times collapses happen when people are crossing. That is of course what we all fear and how people usually die in the ice fall (Sherpas more often other climbers because they spend a lot more time crossing the ice fall doing carries). What happened yesterday was not that. It was a much more unlucky and rare event! A part of a hanging glacier on Everest’s west shoulder (a serac) collapsed due to gravity’s constant pull and triggered an avalanche over the icefall! I did mention in an earlier dispatch that this was also a danger at the ice fall but this is a pretty rare occurrence. Last time an avalanche happened there, was 2009 and I don’t think anyone was passing that section while it happened (I am not sure about this) So this is what we experienced:

As we were headed to the icefall, at about 6:45am, we heard the loud thunder-like sound of a serac collapse and an avalanche. We were facing the icefall so it was easy for me to identify where the sound came from and immediately saw the avalanche coming down the west shoulder of Everest and hitting the Khumbu icefall, roughly about 200 meters below camp ONE (it’s been mistakenly reported that it was just below camp 2).

My immediate thought of course was:  “I hope nobody is there right now or this will be deadly!”

It was a pretty impressive avalanche but most of us hoped and assumed nobody was there at the time. We started wondering if the route would need repair because it obviously had a lot of force and mass. Minutes later  as we kept walking towards the Icefall I remember a Sherpa running down the trail saying something in Sherpa (Sherpas speak in Sherpa among them and not in Nepalese) and looking stressed! My team mate Peter who was a bit behind said that the Sherpa told him: “many Sherpas up there!” That’s when I started seriously worrying if people were dead or injured. We had no idea that unfortunately at the time of the avalanche more than 40 Sherpas were spread out over that section of the route. These Sherpas were carrying loads to camp 2 (not setting up fixed ropes as some reports indicated. They may have included rope in their carries to fix later up the Lhotse face and perhaps that’s where the confusion comes from) but we know they were going to camp 2 carrying loads or returning from camp 2 after having drop them. Luckily our Sherpas had done their carries the day before and were not going to do further carries yesterday but on later days.

Base camp began to get noisy with people shouting things, Sherpas running, camera people taking their cameras out and aiming them at the ice fall and a general sense of commotion as we reached the beginning of the icefall. Phil, our expedition leader decided we should wait before going in too deep in the icefall to find out what had happened. He got on the radio with his Sherpas and we started listening in the radio.

At least some of the Sherpas in the accident site had radios so the ones that were not affected started calling down and the news started spreading around base camp that many Sherpas had been caught in the avalanche!

This is when we began to realize how serious this event had been. We did not want to get too deep in the icefall because we would get in the way of the Sherpas who were beginning to go help. Because they live at altitude and have spent more time at base camp than us the Sherpas are much better acclimatized than we are and are able to move much faster. Also even though our team has a lot of experience mountaineering only Phil and I are professional guides and have experience doing rescues. I, personally was not in a position to go up there and help because I am not familiar with the icefall and I am just getting acclimatized as I have mentioned in my earlier dispatches which means I would move slowly and potentially get in the way of Sherpas on those fixed ropes and this expedition is being led by Phil so I followed his lead. I told Phil: tell me if it can help you with anything. Phil called his Sherpas on the radio and told them to get here ASAP. Most of the Sherpas were understandably tired from their carry to camp TWO (!) the day before but four of the strongest Sherpas showed up at the ice fall ready in about 20 minutes time. Some of the icefall doctors (the Sherpas responsible for fixing the ropes and ladders on the icefall) showed up with two ladder sections also and went to the site.

Phil and his Sherpas took off to go help. The Sherpas moved very fast and reached the accident site  which was about 1500 vertical feet higher than us in an impressive time of just one hour. Phil without as much acclimatization as them reached the site in an hour and 20 minutes ( also pretty impressive, though not surprising as he is a very fit climber with a natural ability to acclimatize fast).

The rest of the team stayed waiting in case we could help Sherpas coming down. We saw early in the morning a helicopter do a reconnoissance flight but no landing and then we saw no more helicopters for a few hours.

We watched the glacier and saw tiny black dots, many Sherpas, all concentrated at the accident site and we also saw other dots coming down. A few other western guides also went up to help.

We knew at that point, based on radio communications that there were deaths but they weren’t sure how many. Perhaps 4 or 6 they thought at the time, though nobody knew how many were missing. The Sherpas were working for different companies so they were not all working together or knew exactly who was missing.

I think my whole team felt terrible as we really care for the Sherpas and know fully well that if it wasn’t for them none of us would have a chance to summit. The Sherpas are the foundation to all Everest expeditions. I don’t know if any western climber has actually summited Everest without any Sherpa or porter help at all (and I am talking from Kathmandu to the summit and back). Even famous solo and alpine style ascents on Everest have had porters bring supplies to base camp.

I think my team members, like me, felt helpless, not being able to help at all as the tragedy was unfolding.

As the rest of the team went back to our base camp to wait for Phil, I decided to go to the medical tent that serves the whole Everest base camp and offer my help. By the time I arrived, helicopters were flying once again and they were beginning rescue operations. As I arrived I saw the medical tent was full of people with many radio conversations going on at the same time and lots going on!

I did not want to get in the way in this chaos so I went through the many people standing around right to the medical tent and asked for Susy, the doctor in charge of base camp who I had seen a few days earlier for the sleep apnea I was suffering from. She was busy inside the tent but a tall man with a beard told me he was not a doctor but he was with the company Jagged globe and was coordinating this whole rescue operation. He had a very nice, humble, friendly but effective way of leading this complicated effort. I told him my name and I said I was a mountain guide and that I was certified as a wilderness first responder. I said: “can I help you guys with anything?”. He said: yes, we may need your help, do you mind sticking around? I said: no problem.

Soon the helicopters began bringing the injured as many conversations continued in radios, some in Sherpa, some in English.

Several doctors and an anesthesiologist arrived also, offering their help. These were clients/climbers that came to try Everest too.

As the critically wounded arrived Susy who is a young doctor, probably not as experienced as the older volunteer doctors but none the less the person in charge at base camp, did an excellent job as a leader doing triage and assigning patients to these doctors asking them who knew more about this or that. I ended up helping a general doctor who got assigned two Sherpas who were not so seriously injured. They were both bleeding from lacerations in their heads. I helped her clean their heads and one of these poor guys got his head literally stapled to close his cut as it was more efficient than suturing. The stapler is one used by doctors in ERs and other situations (but it’s essentially a stapler!). I remember this poor Sherpas, this tough mountain guy, in tears with pain. It must hurt like hell to have your skull stapled without anesthesia! The scene was surreal! It was like a MASH unit! Just two tents with barely room for three or four patients and doctors! I was providing water from my water bottles to clean these wounds. The doctor, the patient and I were sitting on the floor of one of the smaller tents while we worked on him. We did have gloves, which was helpful as some of these poor guys were bleeding quite a bit. No running water, very little room to work and a tricky place to keep things sterile!

The surgeons were taking care of the more severely injured patients as they arrived. One with a broken femur and internal damage and the other one with internal damage I believe. Both were brought by helicopter. Phil and our Sherpas as well as other Sherpas helped get them in helicopters up by the “football field”, a section of the ice fall before camp 1.

As the hours went by I found myself helping in different ways, going to the helipad to see if they needed more help carrying the stretchers, helping with keeping people and cameras at a distance from the medical tent and then finally helping putting two of the critically wounded in the rescue litters to be evacuated in helicopters. It made a strong impression on me to look at this poor Sherpa with a broken femur, probably some internal damage, a bloody face with an oxygen mask and his eyes full of tears and a look of fear. I felt so sad to see him like that, the poor guy was just doing his job a few hours ago and this avalanche comes and almost kills him! One of the other rescuers was comforting him as I was helping buckle up the belts of the litter. When the helicopter landed we moved him out of the tent and it became a bit awkward as other people tried to help besides the six of us that had been assigned to carry the litter. We had to carry him carefully to not cause more damage to his injuries, we also had to carry the oxygen tank, all of this over the very uneven rocks on the glacier and towards the helicopter which landed in a very small improvised mini landing pad next to the medical tent. The helicopter at this altitude of 17,500′ cannot turn it’s engines off as it risks not being able to get them going again. So as we moved up and down this moraine/ glacier we had to be careful of the helicopter  blade as we were tripping over each other, slipping on the ice and rocks and trying at all cost to keep the Sherpa safe. It was tricky but we got him to the helicopter with one of the doctors or rescue crew and finally the helicopter took off slowly. These take offs are also a bit delicate at these altitudes because of how thin the air is and how hard it is for them to generate the lift needed to fly.

Once the some of the critical patients were evacuated and the rest  stabilized and waiting for the helicopter to come back, things calmed down a bit and I asked if they needed my help anymore or if I could take a break and go eat.  It was almost 1 pm by then. They said I could go now and to please come to a debriefing the next day (today). They thanked me and I left. As I walked down to our camp (a 20 minute walk) I saw several helicopters bringing down the bodies of the dead Sherpas. It was a very, very sad sight to see the helicopters with a tow cable and the body at the end of the cable. And to see helicopter after helicopter all day brought home the magnitude of this tragedy!

13 were confirmed dead and four were still missing yesterday. Today, I hear, the 17 Sherpas are confirmed dead and I believe the four remaining bodies are now down. I am basing this on what I am hearing here through Phil and what I saw and heard while helping.

A very, very sad day for Everest, for the Sherpas and for the family and loved ones of the deceased.

I really hope all the living injured Sherpas make a full recovery!

Last night we got together with our Sherpas and had some drinks: beer. Scotch and rum in their mess tent.

 It was a good opportunity for us all to bond more and process this experience. Our Sherpas and us have had a very nice relationship throughout this expedition. It really feels like a team, which is a great thing as that is not always the case with many expeditions here on Everest.



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