Thursday 29 September 2016

Trekkers forced into dangerous descents to safety

Colin Freeman in Kathmandu

Published 30/04/2015 | 02:30

A girl caries her friend after the Nepal earthquake in the Gorkha district.
Photo: Mark Condren
A girl caries her friend after the Nepal earthquake in the Gorkha district. Photo: Mark Condren
Phama Basnet who house was destroyed in the Nepal earthquake in the Gorkha district. Photo: Mark Condren
Paul Greenan who is on his way on his way back to Ireland from Nepal. Photo: Mark Condren
A Family makes its way by bus out of Kathmandu, Nepal after the earthquake. Photo: Mark Condren
Crowds of people at a bus stop trying to make their way out of Kathmandu, Nepal after the earthquake. Photo: Mark Condren
A woman brings food back to her family after house was destroyed in the Nepal earthquake in the Gorkha district. Photo: Mark Condren
A young man takes a brake while his brother takes over from clearing rubble from their family home after it was destroyed in the Nepal earthquake in the Gorkha district. Photo: Mark Condren

BRITISH walkers who were trekking in the Himalayas during last weekend's earthquake have told how they were forced to make perilous descents to safety.

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While those stranded high up on Everest were airlifted by helicopter, such services were not available for thousands of trekkers at lower altitudes on other mountains.

To reach villages further down, they had to navigate pathways, gullies and cliff-edge routes that had become death traps because of the risk of further avalanches.

Many among them were less-experienced climbers, not used to risking their lives on mountains. Jamie Badenoch (19) was on a group trek on the lower slopes of Ama Dablam, a 22,000ft peak. He was taking tea in a rest house when the earthquake hit.

"I didn't really understand what was going on at first and then everyone started yelling, 'get outside the building'," said Mr Badenoch, from London.

"The panic in everyone's eyes was ridiculous. Then the guides warned us there could be another earthquake on the way."

The group wondered at first if they might get airlifted off the mountain.

But with Kathmandu in chaos, and injured trekkers on Everest in greater need, they were told the only option was a nerve-racking five-hour descent to Namche Bazaar, a trekking hub at 12,000ft.

Tom Smith (32), from West Sussex, and his wife Rowana (34), were on a 15,000ft peak when the quake hit.

Like Mr Badenoch, their guides said the only option was to head down as soon as possible.

Places that had looked tranquil and picturesque on the way up were now full of dead and injured people.

At one point, the Smiths saw the body of a fellow tourist, covered over by a blanket.

Mr Badenoch said locals continued to do their best to help, giving out tents.

They were all headed yesterday afternoon for a flight home from Kathmandu airport. "None of it seems real, not even now," said Mrs Smith. "I keep thinking somebody will wake me up." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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