Aussie Climber Dies in Nepal

Michael Davis' group crosses the yellow tower of Ama Dablam. (Top Himalaya Guides)

Aussie Climber Dies in Nepal

How 'freak accident' claimed life of Australian adventurer on Ama Dablam

Posted on 03.12.2018

It was about 2am, in dark and buffeted by strong Himalayan winds, when the decision was made for the climbing group, which included Australian adventurer Michael Davis, to turn around and halt their summit attempt on Mt Ama Dablam, a challenging 6,812 metre-peak.

A few hours earlier, Davis, six other foreign climbers and their trusted Sherpas had woken just after midnight on November 15, all of them eager and excited to reach the top of Ama Dablam.

The weather forecast for the summit attempt wasn’t ideal. Winds were high, but the models were also predicting the wind could drop away about an hour into the climb. In good conditions, an average climber can depart Camp II, reach the summit and descend back down to Camp I in about 12-15 hours …

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Camp II sits at around 6,000m altitude on a very small and exposed area of flat ground. Davis was sleeping in one of his expedition’s yellow tents. In neighbouring tents were seven Sherpas from a climbing company, Top Himalaya Guides, who were leading and assisting Davis and the other climbers.

Under torchlight, Davis and his new friends hurriedly ate some food and gulped down hot drinks. In less than three hours, following a freak accident which could have easily killed three more people, Davis would be dead.

For Davis, a former Ausgrid engineer from Newcastle, this journey to the Himalayas, the mecca of mountaineering, was a trip of a lifetime. In a Facebook post, he wrote that he had been in training for nine months. Just days after arriving in Nepal, Davis posted some photos of himself trekking the famous Everest Base Camp trail. Among photos of bridges crossing wild ravines and huge peaks rising into the clouds, Davis wrote: “Very excited.”

Tshering Pande Bhote is the head of Top Himalaya Guides. A vastly experienced mountaineer, Tshering’s bio states he has summited Everest seven times, and he has stood atop an array of other 8,000-plus metre peaks.

Speaking to, Tshering says Davis joined his expedition on October 26. Davis’ climbing group was made up of other foreigners who would all spend five weeks with Tshering’s team. Together, they would climb a couple of other 6,000-metre peaks, before ending the trip with the attempt on Mt Ama Dablam.

Located in the lower Khumbu Valley, Ama Dablam is known as a serious technical climb that can be treacherous in difficult conditions. Ideally, climbers have experienced high altitude and are fluent with all the vital aspects of ice and rock climbing.

Tshering says Davis had acclimatised to the high altitude “very well”. Davis has climbed strongly, on the team’s earlier successful summit of Lobuche East. Tshering describes Davis as a well-liked and “very social person” in the group.

About an hour into the team’s summit attempt of Ama Dablam, Tshering and other Sherpas made the decision to turn the group around. They knew the foreigners would be disappointed, but at this altitude there can be no room for sentiment. The forecast had been wrong, and the winds had continued to blow violently, rather than drop away.

“When we climbed the wind had kept blowing … it was too strong winds,” Tshering says.

Ama Dablam is a mountain in the Himalaya range of eastern Nepal. The main peak is 6,812 metres, the lower western peak is 6,170 metres. Wikipedia
Elevation: 6,812 m
First ascent: 1961
Prominence: 1,041 m
Mountain range: Himalayas
First ascent: Barry Bishop, Mike Gill, Wally Romanes, Mike Ward

Davis was still about four hours from the summit when he was told the news and informed the summit would have to wait. It was while Davis was carefully rappelling back down the mountain, towards the safety of Camp II, that disaster struck.

Between Camp II (6,000 metres) and Camp III (6,400 metres) is a section called The Grey Tower. A vertical face of exposed rock, The Grey Tower is known for raining down rocks and missiles of ice on climbers.

Tshering says Davis was rappelling down the Grey Tower when a very large rock dislodged near the anchor point of one of the vital ropes fixing the climbers to the wall. Tragically, the sharp rock cut through Davis’ safety rope.

In the darkness, at 3:30am, Davis tumbled a “couple of hundred metres” to his death below, Tshering says.

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