American team of climbers help in Nepali Relief Efforts at the Epicenter of the 7.8 Earthquake

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My name is Echo Giesel Widmer. I came to Nepal on a climbing expedition with my expedition leader Don Bowie, and two other professional climbers Ben Erdmann, and Jess Roskelly. I was here to film with two other film makers Cody Tuttle, and Scott Rogers. After 25 days living at base-camp, everything changed in a moment around 11:25 AM that morning. A 7.8 magnitude earthquake shook our world for many moments. The entire camp fled. At first I thought it was a avalanche or an epic ice serac fall. But after many moments of no snow or ice flooding into camp, I realized it was an earthquake. I ran as fast as I could behind my teammates.

After the earth began to stand still again, we all looked towards one another for comfort and understanding of what had just happened. We had no idea the affects of those moments. Until we did have an idea.
We had been completely disconnected from the world for those 25 days, we had limited calling from our SAT phones to family members, and we did not have wifi. So we were truly unaware of what had happened down below us, off the mountain. What we learned within the next 7 days, as we were trapped at base-camp, was that this earthquake was the worst thing that had hit Nepal in 80 years. Family and friends tried desperately to connect with us, because news had come through that 30 people had died in an Avalanche at Everest base-camp, and many more were injured and missing. Many of friends and families feared for us.
We were then given these staggering statistics from the UN:
2.8 million people had been displaced
70,000 houses had been destroyed
Hospitals’ capacity had been severely reduced
Fuel is urgently needed to pump ground water and maintain hospital services
4.2 million people were in urgent need of water
3.5 million people need food assistance, including 1.4 million people with priority needs
We all felt very lucky to be spared in this natural disaster.
The USA and countries from around the world had been pouring out their support to help the people of Nepal.
But we weren’t going any where soon, food was running out and people’s tensions were growing. Finally after 7 days of climbers calling in to their own embassies for assistance, we were granted a helicopter rescue. Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, New Zealander, Korean, Canadian and American climbers alike, had come together in this stressful time, and truly supported one another to become a united front. On the 7th morning since the earthquake, all campers stood outside waiting yet again for a helicopter to appear. And then it did. We heard it’s propellers making its way through the valley floor. I began to cry, realizing I was both sad and happy. These climbers had become family after 32 days together. But I knew we finally had opportunity to make a difference, we had an opportunity to go help, we had an opportunity to leave base-camp.
Our team made a quick decision to abandon our immediate plans to climb Annapurna (8091m), and return to the valleys below to see how we could help out. After a treacherous decent from base camp the entire team reunited in Tatopani where they continued their journey to Pokhara. With the original intention to work with a structural assessment team still stuck in Kathmandu our plans adapted to team up with Karma Flights, a local N.G.O.  Don Bowie (expedition leader) , Ben Erdmann (climber), Jess Roskelley (climber), and Alex Barber (climber) are already on the ground and are headed for the Gorkha area of Nepal.
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Karma Flights is a long standing local organization with government support that has been assigning available medical and general aid support to the small villages most affected by the earthquake. Most of these villages have not been contacted after the initial tremors due to the difficulty of overland travel, and the destruction of roads and mountain passes. The UN estimates that 8 million people have been affected by this devastating earthquake. Thousands of villages have been destroyed including many of the medical clinics and schools. Don’s EMT training will be of immediate assistance to people who might not receive any other aid for many days.

Our team of climbers set out to travel to these villages to make contact and assess damage and casualties. As an “eyes on” recon team they are relaying this info back to Karma Flights for the allocation of aid supplies. Right off the bat we’ve experienced difficulties. One of our jeeps lost the brakes and rolled off the road, totaling the vehicle. Luckily no one was injured, and the team carried on as far as they could into the heart of the Gorkha region. Upon reaching impassable roads, the team is now on their third day on foot, trekking into unreachable, but highly affected remote villages as first responders.

We’ve haven’t had contact with the team in over 16 hours due to intermittent cell and satellite reception, however last we heard they’re attempting to get more aid and supplies to the many villages in need. One village, Barpak, lost all of its 1400 homes, with many dead. All the residents are sleeping in makeshift shelters and the team brought up 1000kg of food, making a small dent in the needs of the villagers. The water supply is non-existent and our team is filtering water out of puddles next to the road so that they can continue on. Many of the dozens of villages in this area are in the same shape.

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Our goal is to garner as much international support as possible to continue reaching out to these uncontacted villages, and help them with their immediate needs: food, water and shelter. As mountain climbers our team is self-sufficient, travels quickly and therefore in a unique position to reach these villages and help allocate aid. We’re hoping to get other companies and organizations within the outdoor industry to help spread the word and provide support. Nepal is one of the most beautiful places in the world, and the Himalayas are a sacred place to adventure, known around the globe.

There is a reason we found ourselves here at this time. Many of us have gotten food poisoning along the way, not much sleep, and others tired from the amount of work they have put into traveling by foot to get to these villages. We are only 8 people, but already we have raised 17,000 dollars to go towards the relief efforts. I know in my heart we can do so much more, and our team is dedicated to these beautiful people. I hope that you may all find it in your heart, to give a little as well.
Your donation through More Then Just Sports can help reduce the suffering of the people of Nepal.

Please donate if you can.

http://www.morethansport.org/partner/nepalrelief

Collaborating Organizations:

Karma Flight

Cloudbase Foundation

Waves for Water

Team Members:

Don Bowie

Ben Erdmann

Jess Roskelley

Alex Barber

Cody Tuttle

Cherise Tuttle

Echo Widmer

Scott Rogers

Tiffany Junge

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