Don’t (always) believe what you read…

Nepal-Press

The modern world seems to rely on instant news media.  Satellite communications and Social Networking relay information around the globe within milliseconds, against the hours, days, weeks and even months that used to be required.  Though this has a good side, it can also cause unnecessary stresses and tensions, as my family found out recently…

I left the UK in October, expedition bound for the Annapurna region of Nepal.  The objective was to climb Himlung (7126m), which would be one of the most demanding challenges of my life.  All my family knew that I would be out of touch for around four weeks, and this was seen as normal for a mountaineering trip.  Off I went, with a skip in my step and left the digital world behind.  Heavy snow fell and we were stuck in the small village of Phuagon for four days due to avalanche risk.  Numerous helicopters flew trekkers out, and rumours of avalanche deaths filled the camp.  The most important thing for us was that we were safe and well.  Being stuck in camp wasn’t what we wanted, but we had enough food and equipment to sit out a siege and we were going nowhere…

Over the next couple of weeks we built out camps and made our summit attempt.  I was forced back to high camp due to frostbite trying to rear its head again, but that I could live with.  We descended the peak and eventually crossed some of the most awful avalanche debris that I have seen in my life.  The Pho valley had been decimated by ice and rockfall in many places, and walking over the devastation was a real reminder of the power that nature can hold.  We joined the Annapurna Circuit at Koto, where the first telephone service returned, so I called home to say hello, and I didn’t get the response that I expected from my parents.  ‘Do you know, you’re spread all over the national newspapers..?’  It was at this moment that I realised what had been going on.  Because I wasn’t in instant contact, 24 hours a day, the media had assumed me missing or lost.  Now, I have previous experience in this due to my Mt. McKinley epic, but in that situation I could see a reason for the news.  This seemed different…

Returning to Kathmandu a few days later, I logged onto the Internet and found page after page regarding the avalanches in Nepal.  They were much more widespread that I had first heard, with large numbers of people being evacuated, and many tragic deaths reported.  People had trawled some old library images of me, reporting me unaccounted for, and I must thank my sister Amanda, for fielding more telephone calls and questions that I can imagine.  I must also thank my friends and neighbours for their support with enquiries from a number of journalists.  The thing is that people need to understand what we mountaineers do.  I purposely don’t take a web cafe on my back when I’m away in the hills, because I’m away in the hills..!  My TEDx presentation in Derby will explain more, but some of us choose to cut ourselves off once in a while.  Just because we can’t be contacted doesn’t mean we’re lost, buried or dead..!  However, if we choose to live in media eye, I suppose we should expect to be talked about…

It was here that Social Networking worked at its best, as I was able to post a message, announcing my successful return from the wild.  Since then I’ve tried to keep in touch with as many people as possible, but coming home to 600+ e-mails makes life a little busy…

So next time you don’t get an instant response from someone, don’t panic..!  Just because you sent a text ten minutes ago and received no reply, doesn’t mean they are buried, lost or dead, but they might be doing something more interesting than sitting on their mobile…

3 thoughts on “Don’t (always) believe what you read…

  1. Hi Nigel. I was glad to hear you were safe and well. As it was the biggest single climbing/trekking disaster in Nepal’s history it was always going to get massive coverage. Not really media hype. We reported on the Friday that you were in Nepal and that your family were yet to hear from you. Fortunately, that changed within 24/48 hours. To have not mentioned you would have been odd reporting, given the advance publicity of your trip. And as you say, climbers who have a prominent public persona are always going to make more headlines than others – there are plenty of pictures of you in the archives! Simon Hare, BBC East Midlands Today.

    • Hi Simon, thanks for getting in touch. I think the hardest thing from my point of view was the lack of information and reporting we knew of in Nepal. There were plenty of stories, but you probably knew much more than we did, as the lack of news media and quality web connection kept us in the dark. I found out more from calling my family and friends. You may be aware that I contacted the BBC as soon as I could, and was interviewed by both James Roberson and Sally Pepper (apologies for the quality of the line..!) When I returned home, a deluge of newspapers had been saved for me. The quality of the reports varied widely, and this had caused some people to think me dead, which as you can imagine, is very distressing for all parties involved. Thankfully all is well and plans for 2015 are underway..!

  2. I purposely didn’t comment on social media or panic regarding Nigel’s safety during this episode.
    Mr Frostbite has enough experience so as to not embark on expeditions without the equipment / backup / training / provisions required and obviously from past experience he knows when to respect what his body is telling him.

    Accidents and unforeseen events happen. Mother Nature can be quite unforgiving but I have also always believed in “No news is good news” Not hearing anything is nothing to worry about, Bad news travels quickly enough.

    Despite all of the Media hype I hope the trip was a good one.

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