Avalanche Survivor Re-Lives Tragedy, Discusses Recent Mt. Everest Deaths

Updated: 04/19/2014 9:33 AM
Created: 04/18/2014 11:04 PM
By: Brandi Powell

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS sat down with a Minnesota man who survived a Mount Everest avalanche not too long ago. His name is Hugo Searle and he works with High Adventure Expeditions. Searle lives in St. Louis Park, but he's no stranger to Mount Everest. He's lead people on adventurous trips, including to the highest peak on the planet. One of those ventures took a dangerous turn: an avalanche, much like the one Friday.

"By the time that avalanche hit me, the huge chunks of ice had been rolling for about a mile, and they were stopped, so that's what saved me," Searle said. "In this case, the huge chunks of the ice, the big part of the avalanche hit them square on and not only hit them but it hit these towering chunks of ice that are unstable, and it knocked those down on them."

In Friday morning's tragedy, a group of sherpas were working near what is called "Camp One", just before 6:30 a.m.

"What happened was a very large chunk of ice came off very high up on the cliff and came down, smashing and tumbling and making an ice...avalanche, just a huge cloud, filled with boulders the size of cars came crashing down," Searle said. "They had absolutely no chance."

A dozen sherpas were killed, four are missing, apparently buried under ice. "This many, in one go, is extraordinarily traumatic," Searle said.

Rescuers and helicopters carried the injured down the mountain. "It is a tragedy on an enormous scale for such a small community."

Take a look at these stats: The deadliest year on Everest was 1996, when 15 people died; Another 12 climbers were killed, in 2006. Despite the dangers the mountain remains a popular destination. Over the next couple of months some 334 foreign climbers have been given permission to climb everest with an estimated 400 sherpas helping them.

According to the tourism ministry's mountaineering department: The best window for reaching the 29,028 foot peak is between May 15th and 30. Climbers, like those killed today, arrive in April to acclimate to the altitude before heading toward the summit of Mount Everest. 


In this Oct. 27, 2011 file photo, the last light of the day sets on Mount Everest as it rises behind Mount Nuptse as seen from Tengboche, in the Himalaya's Khumbu region, Nepal.
Photo: AP/Kevin Frayer, File

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