|The Khumbu Icefall - beautiful until it comes crashing down on you.|
My friend David Tait, who's climbing Everest for his fifth time to raise money for Britain's leading children's charity, the NSPCC, and to raise awareness of child sexual abuse (of which David himself was a victim at the age of ten), survived an AVALANCHE on Sunday April 28 2013, when a huge chunk of ice broke off and triggered every ice climber's worst nightmare: a vast roaring, raging torrent of snow and ice.
Here is David's own account of what happened - from his regular David Tait Expeditions 2013 Dispatches:
“F*****g run!” screamed Woody at from the head of our 5 man column. Something within me instinctively knew why, despite not having seen the danger. Luckily my iPod was only entertaining only one ear otherwise I doubt I would have heard the warning.
I glanced up high and to my left. There was my worst nightmare. Perhaps 150m above my head a huge chunk of serac ice had broken free triggering an ever widening and accelerating avalanche. The roar froze my soul.
It’s impossible to run – you try, but you cant. At first glance and still 150m distant the wall of snow looked as if it might pass behind me, especially if I were able to “sprint”. However, the sheer scale and speed made this thought redundant before I had taken a step.
In the space of 4-5 seconds I realized with true horror that I was not going to escape and this might be my last moment. Huge rocks and ice boulders rocketed past me, outpacing the closely following snow wall. I felt a bang as something ricoched off my helmet – I remember feeling grateful for that often redundant piece of plastic – all in a microsecond.
I abandoned hope, dived to my left, trying to shield myself in the lee of a suitcase sized ice block, screwed myself into a tortoise shape, and brought my hands up to cover my mouth – thoughts of previous avalanche victims suffocating as the snow thickened and pinned them blazing through my mind. If only I could keep a pocket of air, perhaps I might not die I thought.
I remember crying out loud and the torrent hit its zenith, my back waiting for the inevitable crushing blanket of snow that would mark my end. Suddenly I felt a huge blow on the calf of my right leg and a searing pain – my mind contemplating a broken leg at the same time contemplating death.
But the roar stopped – I raised my head, and looked up at and for the three guides who had been just ahead of me before the avalanche struck. They stared back, all coated head to toe in white snow, ice and dust. No words were exchanged. Shinji, the guide immediately in front of me suddenly raised his camera and took my picture – I was speechless.
I tried to stand and snow sloughed from my body – snow had been driven into every nook and cranny of my clothes and pack – every pocket was full, as were my gloves. Curiously my iPod continued obliviously on my right ear, protected by my helmet ear covers.
I stood and my right leg failed me – but I knew it wasn’t broken. However, the pain was teeth-clenching intense and I felt sure I couldn’t take another step. I had been struck by a bullet fast piece of ice or rock – I didn’t see it coming, and now I had the extreme “dead-leg”.
I looked behind me expecting to find the last 2 members of our team, but there were nowhere to be seen. I was sure that they had been very close to me when the avalanche struck, but all that confronted me now was the new snow, rock and ice debris of the recent collapse. I stared in horror, convinced that they had been swept away.
The radio suddenly crackled into frantic life – name checks and affirmative responses in rapid succession. Our entire party responded – including the pair who had been behind me – they had obviously found shelter – but had yet to reappear.
Only 20-30 minutes from Camp 1, I decided, after much indecision, to try and continue higher – it was the closest if slightly counter-intuitive sanctuary. I found the blow to my leg now prevented me from orientating my toes up the mountain and depressing my heel – instead I walked with my right foot pointing at 3 o clock and climbed leading with my left hip. It wasn’t pleasant but it worked. I hobbled into a desolate, bleak and very cold C1 at 6 am.
It is now 12 noon on Sunday the 28th April. I hobbled down to BC and now sit in the sun-warmed White Pod typing this dispatch with my leg bandaged and immersed in ice. My right calf is twice the size of the now overworked left, but I must count my blessings. Two inches higher and the impact would have been with my shin – a certain broken leg, and a helicopter home. I was lucky – despite everything, I was lucky.
However, the old adage is true – you do see the faces of your loved ones at the moment of your presumed death.
|David Tait, 30 seconds after the avalanche!|
To read more about David, please see my earlier posts: David Tait's 2013 Expedition To Everest To Stop Child Abuse and Follow David Tait's 2013 Everest Expedition in Nepal.