Local filmmaker talks about avalanche tragedy on Mount Everest
After the April 18 avalanche on Mount Everest that killed 16 Sherpa guides, all the expeditions cleared out of Base Camp, among the last being that of Jim Geiger, whose attempt to summit was to be filmed by Thom Pollard of Jackson. Although Pollard and his group did not attempt to reach the top, Pollard was able to do one of the things he wanted on Mount Everest, here shown sprinkling the ashes of his father George and Brother Jeff. The men died within months of each other in 2004. While sprinkling the co-mingled ashes, Pollard thanked his older brother for “introducing me to all things wild,” including the love of climbing which he inculcated in his sibling during trips to the White Mountains. (Courtesy Thom Pollard)
But after an avalanche on April 18 killed 16 Sherpa guides, Pollard ended up with a different film, one about “virtue, family and respect” that is now serving as a catalyst for him to complete another work about an avalanche on Mount Washington, that, fortunately, had a much happier ending.
Fifteen years later, when Geiger went looking for a documentary filmmaker, he was directed to Pollard.
An ordained minister of the American Fellowship Church, Pollard officiated the marriage ceremony of an American couple at Base Camp, elevation 17,200 feet. He was eager to get to the summit where he planned to spread the ashes of his late father George and brother Jeff. Physically, Pollard said he felt well and had “no doubt” that both Geiger and he would get to the summit.
The avalanche occurred around 6:30 a.m. Nepal time, and about an hour later, while on a video-phone call with his son Sam who was back in New Hampshire, Pollard suddenly realized that something terrible was unfolding around him.
“One thing you can never erase from your memory is watching those bodies being removed,” one by one, by helicopter, dangling from a long line, said Pollard, adding that a simultaneous memory he will keep is that of everyone at Base Camp – climbers and Sherpas alike – united as one by sadness and compassion for their fellow beings.
Asked whether he wanted to return to Everest, Pollard gave an immediate, unequivocal answer: “Absolutely, in a heartbeat I’d go back.” But for now, Pollard conceded, “I don’t know how it’s going to happen.”
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