Allan’s 2017 Ascent Himalayas Everest Expedition was lead by Pasang Tenzing Sherpa, a brave and experienced guide, with 13 Everest summits behind him. Joining him, was Naren Thakuri – a Nepalese IFMGA Guide who was the first to react when things went south for Allan.
The real story of falling down an Everest ice crevasse
Allan’s experience falling down an ice crevasse has become quite popular online since he uploaded it to Youtube to share with friends. Although he’s often called an ‘idiot tourist’, Allan laughs off the negative comments from what he calls ‘armchair mountaineers’ and enjoys sharing his story. Now, close to 4 years after the fall, Allan shares his first-person account of the fall in our blog.
Alongside Allan, the expedition had a great team of international climbers from all around the world including Norway, Brazil, Mexico, Ireland, and Australia. Members included Viridiana Álvarez Chávez, who was filming the team crossing the crevasse on her phone, Cian O’Brolochain of World Sherpas, and John Snorri Sigurjonsson – the first team member pulling Allan out of the crevasse. John tragically died recently attempting a winter ascent of K2.
Into the Khumbu Icefall
Venturing into the territory known as the Khumbu Icefall is one of the most dangerous parts of an Everest expedition. Located between the Everest base camp and the higher camps, Khumbu Icefall is a mass of glaciers with deep ice crevasses and frozen icy cliffs. To pass through this dangerous terrain, mountaineers need to walk across metal ladders that connect the ice pillars over a crevasse. The ladders are strategically and carefully positioned and maintained by Sherpas called ‘Icefall Doctors’ before and during every climbing season. The ladders present a particularly dangerous challenge because the glaciers that make up Khumbu Icefall move and melt, making the ice susceptible to cracks. Climbers usually cross the icefall 3 or 4 times during an expedition and Sherpas do so many more times to set up and stock higher camps. In the year of Allan’s expedition, there were 31 ladders to negotiate.
The Khumbu Icefall from Everest Base Camp by Mark Horrell (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
The expedition was on their second trip into the Khumbu Icefall on their first rotation up the mountain for acclimatisation. They’d previously climbed Island Peak on the way into Base Camp where Allan had picked up a chest infection and was started on antibiotics. The group had left in the middle of the night to cross the Icefall before the sun started melting its peaks. Two-thirds of the way in, after some steep climbs up, they reached a crevasse.
A ladder over the abyss of an ice crevasse
As the expedition members crossed the ladder one by one, Viri Alvarez was filming their steps over the deep crevasse. Allan was the last one to cross and had a very casual mindset about the ladders in general, having worked in construction for over 30 years. Nevertheless, as he was halfway across the ladder, a team mate pulled one of the guide ropes tight, which in turn pulled it from his left hand, tipping Allan over and into the ice crevasse underneath.
Thankfully, the pair had pushed their luck just enough. Once Allan was hooked in, everyone hauled him out together. He quickly had to dust off the shock and get ready to cross the next ladder as the journey through Khumbu Icefall’s dangerous trail continued…
The whole team went on to successfully summit a few weeks later. They were lucky to join forces with a British Army Gurkha team including Nims Purja that had stolen a march on the rest of base camp by spotting an early weather window and completing the rope fixing exercise.
On the expedition’s summit day there were only 31 summits in total when more than 200 summits can be seen on a busy day.
Allan’s story has become popular online since he uploaded it to Youtube to share with friends. Although he’s often called an ‘idiot tourist’, Allan laughs off the negative comments from what he calls ‘armchair mountaineers’ and enjoys sharing his experience with those wondering what being inside an ice crevasse feels like.