Climber returns home to Idaho following deadly Everest avalanche



Posted on May 6, 2014 at 5:43 PM

Updated Tuesday, May 6 at 6:18 PM

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho--A Coeur d’Alene man was back home on Tuesday after witnessing the deadliest disaster to ever hit Mt. Everest.

Pete Erbland had expected to be at Mt. Everest through all of May but his trip was cut short when 16 climbing guides were killed in a massive avalanche.

Erbland had a goal to summit Everest.

He said he had seen and heard of several avalanches around the base camp in the days leading up to the fateful morning of April 18, 2014.

READ: Coeur d'Alene climber's Mt. Everst trek in limbo

Erbland was doing training with his expedition group when the avalanche came down.

“It was very loud and when it came down and when it came down the mountain and struck the icefall, it was roaring,” said Erbland.

Erbland said the avalanche exploded into a cloud of snow and ice just 1,000 feet above his group.

“Within a minute, a Sherpa ran past me and he clearly was in panic and he said there are many Sherpa up there,” said Erbland.

Erbland’s expedition leaders and guides in his group, known as Sherpas, joined in the search and rescue effort.

“We spent the rest of the day watching the helicopters bring the dead and injured down from this location and that was hard to watch also,” said Erbland. “There was a sense of loss and pain throughout that base camp that day.”

Erbland said he and others spent the following four to five days thinking about what happened and awaiting word on the future of their trek.

“The majority of the Sherpas who were still on the mountain were not going to set back for back in the ice fall,” said Erbland.

Erbland said they eventually received word that the climbing season on the south side of Mt. Everest had ended. The opportunity to summit the world’s tallest mountain had passed for Erbland. It was an opportunity that cost him more than $50,000. He will not get that money back.

“Many families in this region have lost husbands, their father, their provider, and when we realize that and think about that, the loss of the money that I saved to go on this trip still pales in comparison,” said Erbland.

Erbland said he initially felt disappointed that he would not be able to apply his training. He said he later felt blessed that he was safe and felt sorrow for the fallen.

WATCH: Coeur d'Alene climber on Mt. Everest unharmed by avalanche

“Basically those people are there to help us climb that mountain. They've lost their lives and so it's hard for me to think of anything other than respect for those people, grief for their families and really my goals need to take a backseat to that,” said Erbland.

Erbland said the Nepalese government made a concession to keep the climber’s $11,000 climbing permit valid for five years. Erbland said he would leave open the possibility of going back to Mt. Everest in two years but was not committed to it.