With the death toll on the rise in Nepal, Himalayan climber Al Hancock is counting his blessings and extending heartfelt sympathies to those who have lost lives and loves.
Alberta resident Al Hancock is currently on a mission to become the first Canadian to summit all of the world's 8,000-metre peaks. (Look to the Summer 2015 issue of explore for a feature article on this impressive undertaking.)
Hancock arrived at Annapurna basecamp in Nepal on March 28. His goal was to be the first Canadian to summit this mountain, and also to kick off the three-year Big 14 challenge—an effort to summit the world's 14 tallest peaks. After spending more than three weeks on the mountain, through various harrowing conditions, the reality that the summit was not going to be reached on this attempt sunk in.
Heading back down the mountain—and after experiencing an avalanche that nearly ended the expedition right there—they made it back to base camp on April 24. After one night, the earthquake struck.
Currently, Al is at basecamp on Annapurna, along with roughly 50 other people—climbing teams, cooks and Sherpas. Everyone at basecamp has survived thus far. They are currently stuck until they can be retrieved by helicopter—at this point, all the helicopters have been diverted for emergency aid. They are running out of food and are down to rice, water and tea. Al remains in good spirits, and is thankful that his life was spared. They are hopeful they will have access to a helicopter to bring them down the mountain within two to three days time.
In a call from his satellite phone, Al related his experience during the earthquake as a feeling of the entire mountain caving in. After the initial quake, they felt aftershocks for two days.
This year marks 17 years that Al Hancock has been climbing. He has successfully scaled six of the world’s tallest mountains. He is currently on year-one of his Big 14 Challenge. This challenge will take place over the next three years. The start to the challenge has now been met with heartache and created challenges Al never imagined.
At this point the status of Al’s plans to complete the Big 14 Challenge are up in the air. A reattempt of Annapurna will have to be moved to the future, but he still hopes to make it to Lhotse this spring, weather permitting.
More information on The Big 14 and Al Hancock can be found at www.alhancock.com.