Everest climbers recount surviving the Nepal earthquake

The climbing season on Mount Everest was temporarily halted after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake on April 25 caused avalanches in Nepal and killed at least 5,000 people.

On Mount Everest, 18 people died in a quake-related avalanche. Climbing reportedly will resume next week.

Mike Hamill, an American climber who leads excursions through International Mountain Guides, was on the mountain at the time and recounted his story to National Geographic.

“We were enveloped by a black cloud; a roiling mass of snow, air, and rock that shook our tents and blanketed our camp with an inch of white,” he wrote in a blog post using his smartphone. “I clambered inside a storage tent with Phu Nuru and pressed against the strong metal poles to keep it erect. It was terrifying. Like a hurricane. There was no escaping, and we didn’t know if we would come out the other side.”

After the avalanche passed, Hamill wrote, the traditional landmarks like flags and paths used to find the way were gone. Hamill and others who were not injured worked to help injured climbers and Sherpas and transport wounded into helicopters.

Photographer Roberto Schmidt was on assignment on Everest for France’s Agence France-Presse when the earthquake hit.

“You have this wind and then it’s like a wave crashing, we were swept up, you don’t know if whether you are upside down or what. You are just tumbling,” he said to The Guardian. “Finally I came to, resting on my back and then I felt this ‘tack, tack’ sound of falling rocks and you know I just felt ‘This is it. I’m going to be buried alive.’”

Another survivor, Australian climber Ronald Nissen, was at the base camp when the avalanche hit.

“Those couple of minutes were without doubt the scariest of my life as I lay there with my hands over my head,” Nissen told NBC News. “Everything was ripped away from us. The avalanche came through the base and it wiped the camp off the face of the earth. Dining, cooking, sleeping tents, everything vanished.”

Thomas Martienssen of the BBC also witnessed the avalanche that killed 18.

“On all three sides, it sounded like, when you’re in the pub, and someone presses the button on a pool table to release the balls, and the balls fall together and hit the bottom — it was like that, but a million times louder,” he told the BBC. “And then you get this rumble, this deep rumble coming towards you.”

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