The Dugla Dilemma: Day 9
Oct 25 - Nov 15, 1998
Today was the most intense part of our trip so far. We walked about two and a half
hours to Dugla from Periche and gained about 300 meters. Even though the guidebooks
suggest only ascending 300 meters a day, from Periche they tell you to go to the town of
Lebouche which is actually a 500 meter gain. We arrived at about noon and during our Rara
lunch an argument ensued. Should we stay here in the dirtiest place we had encountered
yet(walls that didnt reach the floor, mounds of garbage all in the one dirt covered
lodge), or press on. As we were eating and debating we noticed and laughed about the same
discussion going on with the group sitting next to us.
it was then, that a woman came down the mountain and informed us that there had been a
death. Needless to say our decision to stay was made. The woman had to proceed down to
Periche because there was no telephone or radio service in Dirty Dugla. Our natural
assumption was that it was another case of someone being careless, pushing up the mountain
to fast, ignoring the early signs of AMS and dying. Manny (the Canadian Royal Mountie)
went up to see if he could help.
Over the next hour people from the group above began to trickle down to the yak lodge.
We found out that the man who had died was the group leader, very strange, normally a
group leader would be very aware of the AMS symptoms. That was when the situation began to
get very sad. A young boy and a twenty-ish girl arrived wondering if the helicopter was on
the way? An older woman then informed us that the man who died was 35 years old and had
died of a heart attack. The group he was leading contained his step-daughter, grandson,
best friend, and 8 other friends and acquaintances. One of the acquaintances of the man
sat down and began to speak with us. He told us the mans name was Luther Jerstead.
He was part of the First American expedition to summit mount Everest in 1963. He had been
to base camp of Everest 18 times and this was to be his final trek. He was bringing his
grandson with him so they could experience the mountain together.
Manny, the man's best friend, and several Sherpas arrived with the body. On the hill
above the lodge a tent was set up next to an old weathered chorten (a memorial made from
rocks piled on top of each other.) Luthers body was placed inside to wait for the
helicopter. The clouds began to move in over the peaks in the distance and the sun started
to set behind the mountain immediately in front of us, the wind gently ringing the bells
draped around the yak necks, all creating a mood of ominous energy . The tent was draped
with traditional Nepalese prayer flags and an impromptu service was held.
With the Nepalese praying in there language, the family crossing themselves and praying
in English - Mike felt compelled to say the Mourners Kaddish in Hebrew.
The scene was chilling and the mood was somber yet somehow uplifting for us it shed a
new light upon the trip. The family gave Manny some prayer flags to bring to base camp
with us. it has given us more then a challenge, it has given us a mission.
The next morning the family wept as finally the helicopter arrived to take the body
away and we continued our walk bringing us closer to Mount Everest.