When the 7.8 magnitude earthquake devastated Nepal on April 25th this spring, local Leavenworth ER Doctor and Mountain Guide Emily Johnston found herself stranded at Camp I on Mt. Everest.

dr emily johnston

ER Doctor, Mountain Guide, Stevens Pass Ski Patroller, and Leavenworth Local: Emily Johnston

After weeks of re-entry into the US and dealing with the stress and trauma of the natural disaster, Dr. Johnston felt compelled to tell the story of the disaster, as well as the story of the Sherpas, who inhabit the region, and who give so much for the summit quests of foreigners.  She spoke before a packed audience at Sleeping Lady’s Chapel Auditorium in Leavenworth on June 18th.

The Sherpa Support Team.  Photo by Nic Dumesnil.

The Sherpa Support Team. Photo by Nic Dumesnil.

Dr. Johnston illustrated the massive avalanche that inundated Everest Base Camp directly after the quake, claiming the lives of 19.  The fixed lines and ladders that make the Khumbu Icefall (the first and possibly most dangerous obstacle of the climb) passable were destroyed and buried.  Dr. Johnston found her team marooned at Camp I.

Meanwhile, across the country of Nepal (one of our planet’s poorest nations), over 8,800 people had lost their lives, 25,000 were injured, and millions more left homeless.

The devastation of Everest Base Camp. Photo by Nic Dumesnil.

The devastation of Everest Base Camp. Photo by Nic Dumesnil.

“It was incredibly frustrating being stuck on the mountain, knowing how many people so close by needed my help as a doctor; in base camp and across the nation.  I forced myself to focus on those I could help, my team and the others at Camp I,” Dr. Johnston told the audience.

Their team was “miraculously” evacuated via helicopter two days later and delivered to base camp.  Dr. Johnston got on the final flight out, ensuring that all others in her care were flown out first.  “There were so many others around the country that needed the aid of a helicopter.  So we made the decision to trek back, rather than use up that resource.”

Their team walked through the Khumbu Valley, stopping along the way to help where they could.

The Sherpa Village of Phortse. Photo provided by Emily Johnston.

The Sherpa Village of Phortse. Photo provided by Emily Johnston.

Eventually, they reached the village of Phortse, where several of their Sherpa Guides call home.  There, they found the damage minimal, and were able to return to the United States several long days later.  However, when a second major quake struck the region on May 12th, Phortse was not so fortunate.  Many of the buildings there, including the Tea House they stayed in, suffered major damage.  The country’s woes only worsened.

Since then, international aid has begun to trickle in, but still falls short of the what the economically disadvantaged nation requires to rebuild and heal. Ashford, WA-based International Mountain Guides, the company Dr. Johnston guides for, has created a fund to support the rebuilding effort of the Sherpa communities with whom they work.  All funds raised go directly to the Sherpa communities, with zero overhead.  For more information on the work being done and the fundraising efforts, visit http://www.mountainguides.com/wordpress/2015/05/01/img-news/how-can-i-help-in-nepal/

If you are able to help, contributions should be mailed directly to the International Mountain Guides Sherpa Fund.

I.M.G. Sherpa Fund
PO Box 246
Ashford, WA 98304