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April 30, 2001

From: Maurice Peret

PV talks on the radio with our base camp and learns about the tragic accident of fellow climber Babu Chiri Sherpa falling into a crevasse near Camp 2. Photo Didrik Johnck.

Monday, April 30, 2001 was A Sad Day in the Khumbu.

Early this morning as a light snow and freezing rain fell upon Mt. Everest like bitter tears, we received the devastating news of the accidental death of Nepal's most celebrated climbing sirdar, Babu Chiri. He was found late yesterday afternoon to have fallen 30 meters into a hidden crevasse near camp 2. Babu was well loved and respected by all of the climbing community worldwide. He made the summit of Mt. Everest no fewer than ten times and held the speed record for climbing from base camp to the top in 16 hours and 57 minutes. He also spent the longest amount of time at the summit, 21 hours. But Babu will be remembered throughout Nepal and the rest of the world above all for his enormous generosity. Until his untimely and unfortunate death he was engaged in a program to build a school for Nepali children to attend free of charge. Babu Chiri is survived by his wife and six children in Solu, Khumbu.

We in the National Federation of the Blind offer our most heartfelt condolences to the family and those who knew and respected this great Sherpa. While we reflect upon the risky nature of mountain climbing and breathe a deep breath of caution, we look forward with great hope and confidence towards the success of the 2001 NFB Everest expedition. Pasquale Scaturro, expedition leader, and Erik Weihenmayer, the blind climbing team member, have put together the strongest and most talented team of climbers possible. There cohesion as a team has been tested and proven from their experience in their attempt on Ama Dablam last year as well as other smaller groups of them climbing together. The risks involved in climbing Mt. Everest are no lesser nor greater today than they were yesterday or last year. There are no novices on this team. Brad Bull and P.V. Scaturro have summited Mt. Everest before. Erik Weihenmayer has been to the top of a number of the world's highest mountains. As a blind climber, Erik is acutely aware of the inherent risks involved in such a venture and has developed a number of alternative techniques to cope with them. No one on this expedition climbs solo. They are fervently committed to each other and to the mission of the expedition as a whole. Prudence and safety are the constant watchwords of the expedition. While every possible danger on the mountain cannot be foreseen, conservative practices of common sense in safety can significantly minimize unnecessary risks to any of the climbers. Erik uses his trekking polls as well as his other climbing tools to probe the ground ahead and also relies upon the verbal queues from his teammates about the terrain.

The lesson of the tragic loss of one of the strongest proven climbers in the world reminds us of the unforgiving nature of this mountain. It will not be squandered in vain or forgotten. We hope that the spirit of Babu Chiri will long be preserved in the hearts and minds of millions around the world, that his family will be well served and protected, and that his soul rest peacefully.

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