Survivor recounts terrifying moments when earthquake triggered avalanche at Mt. Everest base camp

Survivor says “everything was gone” after quake-triggered avalanche hit Mt. Everest base camp.

KATHMANDU, NEPAL (APRIL 27, 2015) (REUTERS) – Michael Churton, a documentary film maker from New York, considers himself lucky that he managed to survive the massive earthquake and avalanche at Mount Everest base camp where he was filming a documentary on the Everest ascent.

Churton, 38, was with four other colleagues at the base camp at 17,500 feet ascent when the earthquake struck, sending tons of ice and snow down the mountain.

“It’s a big ice shelf and it must have just released. We saw it hit, it kind of hits one level and then it just shot right back up. And then I saw — so I told the group to get down. It was like 4,000 feet of snow just kind of coming and there’s nowhere to run. So I told everybody to get down and then, put my hands over my head and like just buried myself as much as I could. And basically snow hit, it’s about 45 seconds or a minute for it to go by,” he said on Monday (April 27) in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Churton says the camp, which is about one square kilometre, was devastated and they still do not know the fate of one of their colleagues.

“Everything was gone. All our tents were gone, and then like people were pushed. Like the guy who stood in front of me was now 30 feet over there. And we’re missing one person that we don’t know if she’s alive or dead,” Churton said.

Churton said the bruises visible on his face on Monday were caused by being hit by something that made him hit his face on a rock.

“I think what happened is, it was either the blast of the snow or maybe one of the kilo things that you use for kerosene for heat, something blasted me into the rock and that’s what hit my face there,” he said.

A number of other people who had been at the base camp before the earthquake hit had left to begin their ascent. Churton said that was a stroke of luck for them.

“So I mean I think we were fortunate, because the climbers, the four of us that were there, we’re not climbers and so the climbers had already gone up to Camp One or Camp Two, they were at one of them, and apparently like there was no damage up there. They didn’t even know there was an earthquake. So they were safe up there. Had there been another 19 people just hanging out, milling around, it could have been a lot worse.”

At least 17 people were killed on Mount Everest in the earthquake-triggered avalanche. More than 60 people were injured.

Mountain rescue teams, helped by clear weather, used helicopters on Monday to airlift climbers still stranded.

An estimated 100 climbers and guides were safe but trapped at camps 1 and 2 by the earthquake which rendered the treacherous Khumbu icefalls leading up to them from base camp impassable.