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Nepal Quake: Temblors Shook Seattle's Climbing Community

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One member of a Seattle-based climbing group's Everest team died Saturday as a result of an avalanche that hit the mountain following the Nepal earthquake. But several other local climbing organizations reported that their teams were safe. 

Among those is Alpine Ascents, the climbing and expedition company that has called Seattle its home for 27 years. The company had six clients and three guides on Mount Everest  at the time of the 7.8 magnitude quake.  

Although the operation has come out relatively unscathed, staff there and locally are still reeling.

Director of Programs, Gordon Janow, said Alpine Ascents International teams were above the massive landslide that followed the earthquake.  While teams initially were safe following the temblors, the route down was buried. Rescue helicopters airlifted staff and clients from the upper mountain's Camp One on Sunday. 

“And amazingly enough, (the helicopters) shuttled a hundred or so people off the mountain in rapid succession,” he said Monday.

It was a small good fortune for a climbing company that had its share of tragic luck in 2014. Last year, Alpine Ascents lost five Sherpas on Everest in an avalanche. Not long after, two veteran guides and four clients  died in another avalanche on Mount Rainier.

Despite that, he says it’s impossible to think of any of the event as a lucky break. The climbing community is tight-knit, he said. Everyone feels the tragedy of a reported 3,800 presumed dead.

“I mean you just go back to that same place of initially hoping as many people are as healthy as possible.”

When the devastation is this massive, Janow says everyone is pitching in to help however they can…and after more than two decades of international climbing, Alpine Ascent’s ties to Nepal run deep.

He says if you want to give to the relief efforts, cash donations are the best way at this point. And if you feel overwhelmed by all the choices, a good way to channel your care is to get involved in a specific issue that speaks to you, such as clean water or construction efforts. Alpine ascents has a list of relief organizations they are working with, front and center on their web page.

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