WMass native on Mt. Everest talks to 22News

CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – On the morning of April 18th, Nepal time, an avalanche on Mount Everest killed 16 Sherpa who were rigging ropes along a trail. The news shocked the world.

One of the hundreds of climbers on the mountain was documentary filmmaker Thom Pollard, a Wilbraham native, who is also a former 22News reporter.

Thom Pollard spoke with 22News anchor Barry Kriger via SKYPE Thursday night, just before he began his trek back down the mountain, and his journey back home to the USA.

Pollard traveled to Mt. Everest to chronicle the effort of a California man who, at 68-years-old, wanted to be the oldest person ever to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. Pollard said the mission of the documentary changed after the deadly avalanche.

He told 22News how, on the morning of the 18th he said he noticed numerous helicopters shuttling up and down the mountain, and how the tragic news trickeled into base camp.

“As the day wore on, we became increasingly aware that the number of people killed in the avalanche wasn’t four. We had heard 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, and it wasn’t until later that evening that we heard the absolutely unbelievable number of 16 lost in the avalanche.” Pollard said, “And as you might imagine it was such a tragedy there were no words to (express) it. We were stunned and absolutely blown away by the scene that had taken place only a mile or two away from us.”

Thom said his documentary transformed into a story about the aftermath of the catastrophe, and about paying respect to the three Sherpa whose bodies are still buried in the piles of ice and snow from the avalanche.

While there are still some “holdouts,” as Thom calls them, he told 22News that almost all of the hundreds of climbers who’ve assembled in the various base camps on Everest have decided to write off their expeditions and put their dreams of reaching the “top of the world” on hold, until another day, another year.

Watch the video above to see the entire interview with Thom, where he describes the long process of getting acclimated to altitude, and how the subject of his documentary, while physically fit, was experiencing health problems associated with living at nearly 17,000 feet above sea level.

Thom also talks about his first experience on Mt. Everest 15 years ago, where he was part of PBS “NOVA” crew, and decided against taking the summit, to instead shoot the site where they discovered the body of a famous climber who’d been lost on the mountain for more than 70 years.

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