The last thing I remember was jumping into our kitchen tent when we saw the mountain of ice and snow hurtle towards us. Now, all I see is white. “I can’t breathe, is this the end?” That’s the first thought I have. “Why can’t I breathe?” I open my eyes, and for a second, I am terrified. I fear I have lost my eye sight.
It takes me a few moments to focus, and realize that everything is covered in snow and ice, including me. The tent I was in has been shredded to ribbons and blown away, leaving just its twisted frame and an open sky.
I wipe the snow of my face and begin to slowly dig away the snow that covers me. I can’t recognize anything: no landmarks, no tents, just a trail of debris strewn across the glacier. “Am I alone…?” I wonder. I can’t feel any pain. I can’t even feel my hands, so I must be in shock. It’s only when I start shivering that I realize I’ve been drenched by the snow and now I’m extremely cold.
Suddenly, I see movement in a pile of snow five meters away, the place where our dining tent used to be. The snow shifts, and under it, I make out the fabric of the tent – and I hear voices. As I run towards the tent, a corner of the canvas lifts and the rest of my team crawls out from under the debris. They are shaken, scared, battered, and bruised; but safe. All ten of us are present and accounted for.
There is an uncanny stillness across the glacier. But then, the silence breaks. Suddenly, all around us, the air is filled with screams and cries for help.
The reality sinks in. I have just survived a deadly natural disaster. But many haven’t.
That wasn’t exactly the day I’d planned.
25th April, 2015: The day started like any ordinary day at Everest Base Camp. After enjoying bright sunlight over the previous three days, we were extremely disappointed to wake up to an overcast sky and light snowfall. The temperature started dropping, and it looked like it was going to be another cold day on the Khumbu Glacier.
As per our climbing schedule, the next day we would attempt to shift our team to CAMP-II at 22,000 feet, and occupy it for a period of three or four days.
As frequent readers of my blog posts know, I’ve been planning my ascent of Everest for more than a year, and mapping out everything from “training” climbs on LeBouche to the logistics of planning such a huge and expensive project.
Just days before, I’d written about the final plans, innocent of what was to come:
Before the fall
We arrived at Everest Base Camp on the 9th of April, 2015, after successfully summiting Labouche Peak (6,120 meters) as part of our preparation and acclimatization plan. My walk into Everest Base Camp was absolutely surreal, with the sun shining brightly across the glacier, the Khumbu Icefall with its numerous Ice pinnacles looking like huge waves frozen in time, sparkling white against a city of multi-colored tents scattered across the glacier.