Petaluma man en route to Mount Everest unaccounted for after Nepal quake

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Spencer Dickinson, a 21-year-old former Petaluma resident who was hiking toward Mount Everest last week, was unaccounted for Monday as earthquake-ravaged Nepal struggled to assess the damage in remote mountain regions.

“I’m feeling extremely helpless here,” said his father, Bob Dickinson of Petaluma.

Spencer Dickinson’s last contact with his family was on April 19, when he told his mother, Lisa Rosenbusch, via Skype that he was in Namche Bazaar, a Himalayan village on the hiking route to Everest, and planned to head toward the mountain’s base camp, arriving in six or seven days.

Among the more than 4,000 quake casualties are 18 people who perished when the magnitude-7.8 temblor triggered an avalanche that buried part of the camp at 17,700 feet on Everest, the world’s tallest mountain. The disaster hit at the start of the spring season when people from around the world attempt to reach the 29,035-foot summit.

Two Sonoma County residents who were in Nepal to climb Everest — Scott Holder, a Santa Rosa financial adviser, and Jon Reiter, a Kenwood contractor — were not caught in the avalanche.

Bob Dickinson said his fears were somewhat allayed by email reports from a cinematographer, Kent Harvey, that an Everest guide had seen Spencer Dickinson heading down toward the village of Lobuche on Saturday morning before the avalanche struck. If that was true, Harvey said that Dickinson might have reached one of the lower villages in a “safe zone.”

“I have this fatherly sense that he’s OK,” Bob Dickinson said.

There is little communication except for satellite phones in the valley, Harvey said, and travel along the trail may be slow due to damage to the trail and the number of people using it.

Bob Dickinson said he was “thinking positive thoughts” and envisioning his son assisting in Nepal’s rescue and recovery efforts. “I’m not grieving,” he said. “I’m just anxious. Worried sick as a father.”

Spencer Dickinson, a 2011 graduate from Petaluma High School, spent two years at junior college in Santa Barbara and moved to Hollywood. He had reached Nepal during the course of a six-month “spiritual journey” that had previously taken him to Thailand and Sri Lanka, his father said.

Late last year, Spencer spent a couple of months at a Buddhist monastery in northeast Thailand, he said. “I’m very proud of him,” Bob Dickinson said, noting that his son left “the capital of materialism” to venture far off the beaten path.

Spencer’s cousin, Haley Caldwell of Las Vegas, said the family, optimistic by nature, wants to “visualize him in a good place,” but also agonizes over the prolonged silence.

“He has a strong heart and a strong mind,” said Caldwell, 24. “He’s always been one to chase his dreams.”

News reports on Monday said that Nepali officials were still trying to assess the casualties and damage to villages in the mountains, where many trails have been blocked by landslides.

You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 521-5457 or guy.kovner@pressdemocrat.com.

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