A Whidbey vintner got more than he bargained for when he survived the recent earthquake in Nepal during a Mount Everest ascent.
Eric Murphy, co-owner of Ott and Murphy Wines in Langley, was climbing Everest when the 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal around noon April 25, causing more than 150 people to be airlifted off the mountain.
While Murphy has been largely unreachable, even to family and friends, someone posted on the Ott and Murphy Facebook page that day that he is “alright (sic) after the earthquake in Nepal. His team is at Camp I.”
David Ott, Murphy’s business partner, said Monday that he has pieced together a basic understanding of what happened by following other climbers’ online accounts.
Murphy’s “day job” is working as a senior guide for Alpine Ascents, Ott said, and primarily guides people up Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania a few times a year.
During his recent Everest attempt, the earthquake disrupted the ice below the climbers between Camp I and Camp II, Ott said, essentially trapping them on the mountain. An avalanche also occurred at Base Camp, causing additional obstacles and fatalities.
“They couldn’t cut a way through,” Ott said.
An Alpine Ascents staff posted on their web page April 26: “I spoke with guide Eric Murphy early this morning and team is well at Camp I. At this time, the teams at base camp feel a route through the ice fall will be very difficult and thus we are looking to use helicopter transport to move our other teams from Camp I to base camp.
“Though a few climbers have already been transported, Eric informed us that the heli transport on a large scale should begin tomorrow. We have heard of life lost at base camp and of course we all share this loss with our fellow climbing teams — offering support and condolences as we can — to the climbing community and the larger community in Nepal.”
Ott said two helicopters transported around 160 people off the mountain two at a time.
“The events of the last two days are very hard to put into words. We are incredibly fortunate to be here, and are all relieved to be down, and that are (sic) whole camp and staff are alright (sic),” according to a later website post.
“Half of Base Camp (not our end) is destroyed, and many lives are lost. Most of our Sherpa have lost their homes, but fortunately no families lost any lives.”
Ott said that while phone and internet connections were good prior to the earthquake, they have been lucky if they hear from Murphy every three days or so.
“It’s kind of dramatic trying to stay here and sell wine,” Ott said.
Langley resident Bob Frause and his son, Max, were stopped in Lhasa, Tibet, on their travels in the region when the earthquake hit.
Frause and his son returned to Katmandu, where much of the destruction occurred, a few days after the earthquake and surveyed the damage which included toppled buildings and broken infrastructure.
“Parts were okay, but other parts were wiped out,” Frause said. “It was really sad to see everything that was going on. And we got to see it up close.”
Despite the damage, Frause said he was impressed with the resiliency of the Nepalese people.
“Obviously they need a lot of help but they’re self-starters,” Frause said. “They’re doing what they need to get squared away.”
Alpine Ascents staff posted on their website that Murphy and the other guides will work to help rebuild the Sherpa villages “in the coming weeks, months and years.”
“Climbing Everest seems pretty trivial compared to the destruction, and loss of life that has affected this amazing region. It reminds us all that despite how much we may want to climb a mountain, the most important part is the human aspect.”