I am back in Rome, back at work. It is a different reality than I was in last week. People are hovering in the coffee line up, walking by, busy and very concerned with what, I don’t know. Just over a week ago, people were walking around me, stunned, wondering if what had happened hours before was real. It was real. It was not just an avalanche that caught so many by surprise but it was a true disaster. Something that was unpredictable. Although my thoughts still wander back to that dreadful day on Mount Manaslu, I have no regrets. Myself and all my team have so much to be thankful for. We are thankful for the calm, cool disposition of out skilled and experienced Team Leader Phil Crampton. We also are thankful for the world class Sherpas that were with us before, during and especially after the disaster and helped many of us reach the summit and safely return. Without all these kind veterans of the mountains, beside us and behind us, it may have been a different outcome for our team. Because of them, we made it through the disaster and summited Mt Manaslu. We dedicated this difficult summit to those that were lost in the terrible avalanche. We climbed to the summit with those that were lost on our minds and did it in their honor. These poor souls were constantly on our minds, from bottom to top and to this day. I am thankful and our achievements are dedicated to them. May they rest in peace.
(Altitude Junkies Team Manaslu 2012, photo of Edita Nichols (Edita is third on the right)
To take a step back in time, I have had many mountain experiences. I am not a terribly experienced climber but I have taken climbing seriously since I decided, that is what I want to do. My ultimate goal is to climb the highest mountain in the world but Manaslu is a challenge like no other. All mountains, especially the 8000ers, must be respected as separate and distinct beautiful challenges. No mountain climb should be taken lightly and although hard not to do, mountains should not be compared. Most judge them by height alone. They all present different challenges.
I trained, saved and worked especially hard for the Manaslu expedition. I remember thinking; I have never been better prepared for a climb. I was prepared. I was in great shape, had all the right equipment and a good set of climbing experiences behind me. All that said, how does one prepare for disaster on the mountain. One never knows how they will react. Everyone does react one way or the other. Teams tend to react as a group and it does bring them closer together and it did us. Some individuals were angry with the media for speculating on why the disaster happened, playing the blame game. Such as, “China closed Cho Oyu”, so it was overcrowded. Some held it out to be a disaster waiting to happen because of where the poor souls set their camp before that dreadful morning. As Phil Crampton said, this is what mountains do. It is history now and fate. I will not speculate or dwell on it anymore.
What I will dwell on is the need to continue my efforts to raise awareness for the Sahel region of Africa. While working in Niger (NO NOT NIGERIA!) for the World Food Programme, I thought I could help the people there by dedicating my climb of Everest to raise awareness and attention of the crisis for the people of the Sahel. For many of them, everyday is a disaster. I know I have helped at least bring attention to this crisis because 1000”s of people went to my website to look for information on the Manaslu disaster and they could not have helped but seen the Everest for Sahel Campaign.
(Photo by Ole Mose Nielsen: On the top of Manaslu – Edita holding WFP Flag for Sahel)
Although many did not care to look into the details of the Everest for Sahel Campaign, especially as the media no longer finds that crisis newsworthy, those that went to my website had the Sahel crisis brought to their attention. Out of the fate of the Disaster in Manaslu comes some good. Please help me, help Sahel. The disaster that continues.