Nepal’s Earthquake: An MBA’s Account

Danilina on the trek

Danilina on the trek. Courtesy photo


But as Danilina got used to the environment and into the backpacker’s routine of walk, eat, sleep, repeat, she began to remember the reason for her sabbatical. “Being cut off from communication makes you a better thinker,” Danilina reasons. “Otherwise, you don’t get time to reflect. I was always the risk taker and if I wanted something, I went for it.”

Indeed, Danilina was going for it – until April 25, when that bamboo terrace shook. Her location and remoteness rendered her oblivious to the seriousness of the situation. Close to the Makalu village, she was hard up against the country’s border with China’s Tibet region—roughly 110 miles from the earthquake’s epicenter outside of Kathmandu. However, she was only about 12 miles from Everest, where an earthquake-triggered avalanche killed 19, making April 25 the deadliest day on the mountain.

After the earthquake, Danilina said it was business as usual for the locals and the most she had to deal with was calming down her parents, and convincing them she’d be OK. They, according to Danilina’s blog, wanted her to “come the [explicit] home” immediately. But unaware of the destruction elsewhere in the country and slightly blinded by the obsession to carry on, Danilina decided to “finish the trek at any cost.” She packed up and continued.

“Turning back was absolutely not an option,” Danilina says, thinking back on her decision. “If you have a goal in front of you, you just don’t care. And that’s why I think a lot of people get into difficult situations, because they failed to assess the new information coming in in the correct way.”


And that’s precisely what happened to Danilina. On her blog, she writes of how “we” (mountaineers) go through all necessary precautions to never tip the risk/reward balance too far in the wrong direction. “We have cut-off times, clear rules to follow and pledges to our loved ones never to take risks. We also hire guides and porters as a precautionary measure and obsess about weather forecasts,” she writes.

But adventurers also get obsessed and hell-bent. And caution, as they say, gets thrown into the wind. Instead of asking for accurate reports from her parents, because none were available in Nepal, she spent 30 minutes of valuable phone signal time arguing with them about whether continuing was reasonable or not. She left Makalu and headed toward the village of Salpa Phedi, quickly losing her phone signal and draining her battery.

Salpa Phedi rests at the base of Salpa Pass, a gateway just under 11,000 feet high into the Everest region. The pass was usually hit by storms every afternoon around 2 p.m. The village on the other side of the pass was about eight to 10 hiking hours away, meaning the safest time to cross the pass was early.

Danilina overslept and despite a late start, the weather looked good, so she went for it. Almost exactly halfway into the day’s hike, she was getting pummeled by the weather. At the very top of the pass, getting smacked around by a mountain storm, Danilina found a house and the residents were willing to take her in for the night.

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