Coeur d’Alene climber on Mt. Everest unharmed by avalanche



Posted on April 18, 2014 at 2:02 PM

Updated Friday, Apr 18 at 7:31 PM

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho— A Coeur d’Alene man was climbing Mt. Everest on Thursday when the deadly avalanche hit and killed 12 people.  Pete Erbland’s wife told KREM 2 News that he was training on a lower section of the mountain when the avalanche took place elsewhere on the mountain.

The avalanche killed at least 12 Nepalese guides and left four missing. Four survivors were injured badly enough to require airlifting to a hospital in Katmandu. It was the deadliest disaster on the world's highest peak.

WATCH: Avalanche sweeps down Everest, killing at least 12

Tiffany Erbland spoke to her husband on the phone about the disaster. She sent an email to family and friends saying Pete was alright.

“It was about 6:45 am (which was about 6 pm Thursday evening PDT) when they heard and saw the enormous piece of ice and snow break off about 1,000 feet above them and storm down the top of the icefall, where sherpas were setting the fixed ropes to the higher camps,” she wrote.

Nobody with her husband’s climbing team, Altitude Junkies, were hurt.

“I could hear the helicopters over the phone connection, evacuating the injured or dead to Lukla to then be transported to Kathmandu.,” the email stated. “He said that sherpas from many teams went up to help find survivors and bodies.

Pete said the chunk that broke off was about the size of a city block and that Phil Crampton (the expedition leader) said that it probably hadn't moved for about 4-5 years.  He said they heard a big crack and it exploded down, over the cracks of the icefall.  They were so close to it that everybody is shell-shocked and it will take a few days to sink in.  Pete said that many of the sherpas killed were with the team called Adventure Consultants, so this is especially tragic for their group, although this affects all.”

Pete also told his wife that sherpas on the mountain said a disaster like this was bad luck. The sherpas suggested having another Puja. A Puja is the religious ceremony performed by the Buddhist monks.
The Coeur d’Alene man told his wife that the timing of the avalanche made the tragedy worse.

“If it had happened at 6 pm that likely no one would have been on the icefall or harmed and that it would have instead been an inconvenience,” Tiffany wrote in her email to family and friends.

The avalanche struck ahead of the peak climbing season, when hundreds of climbers, guides and support crews were at Everest's base camp preparing to climb to the summit when weather conditions are at their most favorable early next month. They had been setting up camps at higher altitudes, and guides were fixing routes and ropes on the slopes above.

WATCH: Boise climber unharmed after avalanche strikes Mount Everest

The wall of snow and ice hit just below Camp 2, which sits at an elevation of 21,000 feet on the 29,036-foot mountain, said Ang Tshering of the Nepal Mountaineering Association.