A Survivor’s Diary from the Annapurna Blizzard October 2014
On October 04, 2014, I with two international trekkers as my clients set out for Annapurna Circuit Trek. I had a newly married couple namely Mor and Oleg, who had come to celebrate their honeymoon in Nepal. We drove along the Prithvi Highway up to Dumre, a transit nearby the Queen of Hills, Bandipur.
Then, by leaving the Prithvi Highway, we drove towards Besisahar, the gateway to Annapurna Circuit Trek. Finally, we drove past Besisahar and stopped at Syange to begin the trek the following day. Due to the peak season in the Nepalese tourism industry, I couldn’t manage a porter for my guests from the Kathmandu Valley. So, I shared this fact with the hotel owner, who suggested to me take his Uncle who had never been trekking before.
Following the regular Annapurna Circuit Trekking Route, we reached Manang. We had a day’s rest to better accommodate the high altitude. During the visit to beautiful places, we met several groups of Annapurna Circuit trekkers who had stopped there for acclimatization purposes. Among them was an Israeli trekker who had come from another local tour operator of Nepal. She befriended me and my team so that the entire trip would become easier. As she said, she was feeling hard to traverse through the steep trail. So, she requested me to help her manage a horse to travel up to Thorung La Pass (5,416m).
I helped her to hire a horse to reach the highest point of Annapurna Round Trek at a reasonable cost. By taking rest at the specified stopovers, we reached Thorung Phedi on October 12, 2014. As we were going to cross one of the highest passes in the Himalayas, we decided to prepare for the adventure. At around 6:00 pm, all of sudden, light snowfall began around the Annapurna Trekking Region. My clients were excited to have got to play with the fresh snow in the Himalayas.
It was October 13, 2014, the day to go across the most adventurous Thorung La Pass. So, at night, I got up 3-4 times and checked the weather condition so as to plan for the further trek. As the snowfall was slow and steady, I got up at around 3:30 am and began preparing hot drinks and packed breakfast for the trip. As we were hiking towards Thorung La Pass, we had to begin earlier to avoid the strong wind that blows after midday. Till then my clients were also ready, so we began the day’s trek around 4:00 am.
As the pace of my guests was slow, especially on the steep trail, it would take a comparatively longer time. Walking at the speed of the guests, the porter would be more tired on the steep trail due to his load. Thus, I sent him towards the top with some other groups so that he would be comfortably shortening his distance.
Walking slowly in the soft snowfall and chilling cold, we reached the High Camp at around 1:30 hours. Although it was still dark, we came across several trekkers going towards the pass.
The blinding wind began whirling all around with an awkward sound as if a plane crashed!
October is the peak season for trekking in Nepal, so it was obvious that Annapurna Region was really full of trekkers on that particular day and time. The headlamps on their foreheads to figure out the trail looked as if the swarms of fireflies were in the procession! The scenery was more picturesque as it was still snowing in the Himalayas. At High Camp, we took a short tea break for rest so as to avoid altitude sickness. The weather was around -20 Degree Celsius as the snowfall was gradually increasing.
The increasing snowfall covered the trail, so the mark of the feet of the travelers resembled the league of the train. While experiencing small wind piercing our body, we reached another tea shop at around 1:30 hours and took a rest. Until now, the layer of the ice increased up to 2.5 feet but the trail was still clearly accessible. Then, we restarted our trek further.
We had hardly walked for over 20 minutes when the speed of the wind started to increase all of a sudden. The blinding wind began whirling all around with an awkward sound as if a plane crashed!
Of course, it was not a good symptom, so the trekkers began screaming in fright. However, we still began going up. When I concluded that it was not possible to move higher, we wanted to retrace towards the teashop. Nonetheless, the wind was sweeping towards the opposite direction and we couldn’t return as expected. The fast-moving wind filled the footmarks with the snow omitting the way forward or backward. In no time, the scenery looked like the one happening in the desert where the sand changes the surrounding all of a sudden!
While I was observing the scenery, something never expected happened in front of my eyes! As the speed of the snowfall and the howling wind began to increase, all of a sudden the trekkers almost covering the entire trail were dispersed and disappeared as well. Howling piercing wind carrying the snow drains all around made the visibility too low that almost dark. Despite the unfavorable circumstances, I kept following the trekkers towards the pass as I failed to return to the teashop.
My clients were walking with me even though they were terrified! After a while, I couldn’t figure out anybody else except my guests. I have consoled them by holding their hands, they were screaming in extreme fright. Even a few trekkers, who didn’t belong to my group, were following me. I don’t exactly know why the other trekkers followed me! Was it an obvious phenomenon or they felt as if I were their Savior?
In spite of the unsurpassable condition, my experience led me through the right trails hoping that the blizzard would calm down. We traded along with the ups and downs of the trail when the real trail is almost lost. There was nobody around me except my clients and some other trekkers. When the wind didn’t calm down immediately and nobody around me from my community, I felt scared guessing the result of the future.
I failed to ascertain the right track due to the thick layer of snow all around the vicinity.
Visibility was maximum of 15 meters, surrounded by the thick snowfall and half sunk in the snow, we reached the steep hill. When I turned my head around, I found trekkers were almost decreasing slowly. Moving ahead, we reached the edge where no sign was familiar; then, I realized I couldn’t go any further. To my utter despair, to return was even more challenging. There was a fearful gorge below and the rocky hill above that helped me to realize the way I was following was no more the right track. Then, amidst the Ocean of the Snow, I contemplated for a while. I tried to make the happenings around and the next step to save myself and the people who were around me!
I failed to ascertain the right track due to the thick layer of snow all around the vicinity. Then, I dared to share the reality with my clients, who were still frightened. However, I consoled them not to lose their heart in such a tough time. Yet, I had not lost my sense of space and time; I knew we had not covered quite a long distance and walked no more further, and there was still a long way to go to reach the top of the pass.
All of a sudden, a sound reached my ears from somewhere high up. Even in the midst of the dark and poorest visibility, I occasionally sighted something in motion towards the pass. I drew all my attention towards the sound and the direction it was coming from. After sheer concentration, I figured out that the sound was coming from the harness bells of the horses. The horses were coming back by leaving the trekkers unable to cross the pass due to AMS and extreme fatigue.
All of a sudden, Mor, (my lady guest) stopped walking as if she fainted;
Then, hope rose in me that I would find the way towards Thorung La Pass (5, 416m). Then, I directed my clients and other trekkers back to the trail to move towards the harness bells. The snowfall and the wind were both increasing in such a way that they would never stop!
Although it was hard to find the trail, we were going upwards towards the sound. All of a sudden, Mor, (my lady guest) stopped walking as if she fainted; she laid on the trail. That moment was even more frightening to me because her health condition added to the challenge. I had to save them and myself in such a harsh condition in the Himalayas during the snowstorms. Then, her husband and I used first aid treatment to bring her to consciousness. We, then, encouraged her to move upwards to reach a safe place as soon as possible.
We were still moving and almost reached the top, the storm would become calm soon. Then, I noticed the movement of the blurred figures in the farthest corner towards the top of the pass. I tried to motivate her by saying, “Let’s go a little upwards because I have seen a few people with their horses. Maybe they will help you reach the top of the pass or any other safer place. You can ride on the horse on availability.”
I was ready to take up the service although I had not had USD 400 at the moment in my pocket.
Then the lady became ready to move towards the direction in the hope to use the horse riding services. Upon reaching, we found two foreigners supported by a Nepalese guide bargaining for hiring a horse. I also requested the horse owner to manage a horse to carry my female guest up to the pass. The horse owner was demanding USD 400 for the service up to the top of the pass. Nevertheless, in the end, we settled down at USD 100 for the service for each.
Sad but fact, that my guest had almost finished pocket money and the ATM booths were not available in this part of the trekking routes. Moreover, the blizzard created an even more dangerous situation.
Therefore, he was denied the use of horse service for USD 400. However, I was ready to take up the service although I had not had USD 400 at the moment in my pocket. What inspired me to pay USD 400 was my client’s critical condition. Meanwhile, her life was more important for me than anything in the world at the moment. I would borrow insufficient amounts from fellow travelers and trekking guides to save my client’s life. By hook or crook, I had to use the horse to transport her to the pass. This was the only option to save them and myself from extreme coldness and growing snowfalls and storms. The teashop on the top of the pass would provide us a shelter to protect ourselves from unfavorable circumstances.
She rode on the horse, and we began walking towards the top. Around half an hour, I sighted the prayer flags welcoming us towards the safe place that is the pass. My happiness and hope know no boundary because I had already begun to see hope amidst the whirlwind and we were almost able to escape death! After a few minutes, we reached the pass. A small tea shop was crowded with trekkers and guides. Many of them were crying because they had lost their fellow travelers, trekking guides, and family members, and who not? They also lost their equipment. The scenery there was really heart-rendering! Some were affected by the AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness).
My body was most frozen while the snowflakes were hanging from eyelids to the clothes just like icebergs in the Khumbu Icefall!
Upon reaching the top, I first searched for the client whom I had sent on the horse. I felt really thankful to the Almighty that my client was safe, so were we by God’s Grace! After that, I bought some hot drinks for her so that she could recover from the harsh condition. She was wailing; don’t know the exact reason behind this. I guess she was thankful to the Almighty for her survival! I consoled her not to worry much as we had reached a safer place by crossing the most disastrous section and moment of the entire trek.
Next, I remembered my porter who had already left with some other groups. I was more worried about him whether he was safe or not! Sadly, I didn’t meet him over there despite my inquiry with the fellow trekkers, guides, and porters. “The man has been on the trek as a porter for the first time in his life. The hotel owner had convinced him to join me during Annapurna Round Trek. The blizzard is growing every other second, with poor visibility and less hope to be alive the next moment! I wish he was safe and alive!” I thought.
My body was most frozen while the snowflakes were hanging from eyelids to the clothes just like icebergs in the Khumbu Icefall! I pulled out the snowflakes many times to ease my eyes and other parts of the body.
At the teashop, I took the lead to discuss the next step to escape the disastrous situation. On the other hand, few travelers were getting towards us by screaming and howling out of sheer fear and bafflement. The snowstorm did never seem to decrease but it was increasing at a scary speed. I tried to check the strength of the storm current by going out of the hut. The strong wind gilded me a little far from the hut, so I returned to the hut again.
Then, I talked with the other people (Guides, porters, and the trekkers themselves) to find a way out of the situation. The small hut crowded by larger than its capacity was another threat in itself. The teashop could hardly accommodate ten people for having tea and breakfast. More than forty-five passengers looked like stocked sacks of wool to be exported to some foreign lands! In a sense, we were feeling suffocated due to the lack of oxygen, people were feeling altitude sickness and almost unconscious. Although many of the people agreed with my proposal, some couldn’t agree due to their deteriorating health condition. Some others raised questions about the way to get out of that dreadful condition.
Then, we concluded to request the hotel owner who could lead us towards the bottom of the other side. As a local resident, we thought he knew better about the trail even if it is buried beneath the snow. Although initially denied, due to our continuous pleading, he agreed to help us if we paid him around USD 5000. We were unable to pay him that amount although it was almost the only alternative we had at the moment. We then bargained with him requesting him to help us for the sake of humanity. At last, he agreed to help us for USD 2,000 to lead us up to the bottom of the pass on the other side.
Now, our biggest challenge was how to progress the journey in such a confusing and challenging situation. I proposed to fellow trekkers to walk by making a human chain to avoid falling and any other accidents. We then decided to march ahead in the leadership of the tea shop owner. We were to a great extent confident that the owner would lead up successfully to the safe zone; however, the owner himself didn’t seem quite confident because as he said that it was the very first time that he had been in such harsh condition ever in his life.
While we were to continue our trip towards the safe zone, the strong wind pushed some of the trekkers, guides, and porters on the ground. So, they returned to the hut again. But we kept on moving ahead by undermining the unfavorable situation of the weather. Some of them couldn’t walk further even with the support of other human beings. Thus, the group members of almost forty-five trekkers and their supporters began to decrease.
The scenario of the route was really pathetic and heart-rending!
An Indian trekker deserted from his group was also in our human chain in the course of going downwards to a safer place. What happened with him keeps reeling in my mind and the eyes; I think for the rest of my life! He fell during the movement further in three-four places but we lifted him again and again. Sad, when he fell for the fourth time, he was motionless; let alone speechless! The level of snow till this time had reached above 5 feet. Therefore, it was impossible to rescue him although I know how valuable a human life is! So with a heavy heart, we left him over there and moved further towards our destination, the safest possible place!
Moving forward was not that easy because of the rising level of the snow and fierce wind blowing all around. In many places, we crawled; somewhere moved like a toddler; somewhere fell into trenches but pulled by the fellow travelers and companions. The scenario of the route was really pathetic and heart-rending! The debris of backpacks was scattered all around; many of the trekkers were lying on the snow after being injured.
Some were screaming as they scattered from the usual route due to the Snow Ocean and strong wind and snowfall. I realized the World War Scenario around the trail I was moving along! Every other second, I was compelled to witness more melancholic scenery. The trekkers, guides, and porters screaming for help all around! The scenario was so mournful that I cannot describe it in any words.
I wanted to help the people calling for help because I know how precious one’s life is for him/her. Nevertheless, I was helpless because trying to rescue them was really hard and I couldn’t risk my life. You know, in life there are so many situations when you become helpless! And many times, a person becomes selfish and thinks only for himself while forgetting the rest of the world around him. I was one of the unfortunate human beings in the world at the moment!
While going downwards, I witnessed even more saddening events!
The people crying for help made me wonder if there’s no more humanity left in the world!
I saw so many guides and porters moving ahead by leaving their guests far behind. The guests had been in this region for the first time ever in their lives and in such natural calamity for the first time! The people crying for help made me wonder if there’s no more humanity left in the world! I saw another instance of the selfish nature of human beings, especially, in the high altitude!
We have faith in you just as we have in OUR ALMIGHTY!
I think guides and porters are responsible to save their guests even in the harshest condition in whatever region! Even my clients were witnessing the situation faced by other trekkers who were deserted by the guides and porters. Then, my guests hugged me tightly! They said, “These trekkers are left by their guides and porters in such difficult situations, and they are crying for help to save their lives in the Himalayas. Like the guides and porters, you may abandon us in such a region. This region is really unknown to us and we cannot figure out the right track to reach a safer place! We are going to DIE if you also do the same activity!” I still feel their sobbing and wailing in my ears and eyes today!
In a way to console them, I replied, “Don’t worry, guys! I am not the type of those guides and porters who leave their guests and run away from their responsibility at a hard time. I am totally different from them. I lead you up to the place where I can or I shall die with you! I know my responsibility to lead you up to the safe zone. Let’s keep hope and patience; we shall surely reach the danger-free zone by God’s Grace!”
Hearing my words, they hugged me even tighter, comparing me with their GOD and the SAVIOR who is always there for humankind at a dangerous time! “You are the GOD for us and you will surely lead us to a safe place! We have faith in you just as we have in OUR ALMIGHTY!” I was speechless and continued the trip with them walking hand in hand and shoulder to shoulder!
To the other trekkers who were abandoned by their guides and porters but walking nearby me, I told them to follow me. The lower we reached, the more familiar location we would sight! I said, “Guys, you can trust me and follow so that I can lead you up to the safe zone. Although I am not your guide and you are not my responsibility, what responsibility is greater than being a human? If a human doesn’t help the other human in need, what is the significance of being human? Let’s move forward together and let’s see what result comes!” The other trekkers were also happy and began following me more confidently and with more trust. It was another good aspect even in the worst situation!
To be frank, at a point, I was also almost lured by the fellow guides and porters. They often suggested that I love my own life more than other things at the moment. They told me to leave the guests and walk with them to avoid the possible death in that difficult situation. My mind was telling me to walk with them by leaving the people under my responsibility. But, my heart wanted to help the helpless people in such wilderness and natural calamity for the sake of humanity. My sense of responsibility and importance to humanity more than anything else at the moment won the battle with my mind! I remained with my clients and other trekkers as far as I could manage to do so.
I heard a familiar voice shouting for “HELP! HELP! HELICOPTER! I will pay
Besides the challenges of crossing the ice-covered trail and unfavorable weather conditions, I was going through another tough time. I have a typical habit while trekking even at high altitudes. In other words, I prefer walking in shorts rather than pants or trousers. As usual, that day also, I had worn shorts to avoid the friction of the pants in the steep trail. I was determined to bear the extreme cold for the first few minutes until my body warmed up.
With the sense of responsibility and unfavorable condition, I didn’t even remember that I had been walking across the snow layers as high as five feet. The snow had almost killed my skin. Although I wanted to change my shorts after reaching the teashop on top of the Pass, I couldn’t do so because the clothes had all soaked due to the snow.
While we were descending from the top, I heard a familiar voice shouting for “HELP! HELP! HELICOPTER! I will pay!” I reminded the lady whom I had met in Manang a few days earlier. Then, I thought that she must be helped to come to see the beautiful morning the next day. I requested the tea shop owner to go and help the lady and I would guide the other members on the route.
When the owner came back, he told me how he tried to help her to pull out of the snow piles. He gave her hot water, tried to pull out, and help to walk further, but she was unable for either of them. What she said is “Help, help, helicopter! I will pay!” Unable to drag her to the usual trail, the owner came back to join us. Later on, I heard that she died amidst the blizzard in Annapurna Region. The news made me more bereaved and felt guilty for not being able to save her life!
There was no mark of the usual trail because about six-foot snow layers had covered it. It was obvious that the night fell that day quite earlier than other days because it was snowing and winding all day long. It was almost dark but we were still moving towards our destination in the same group but the number was decreasing from forty plus to around twenty-five.
While returning towards the right trail, I happened to fall into a trench almost of my own height.
We missed our regular route and reached the other hilltop than the necessary one. As soon as we reached the gorge, I realized that we had followed the wrong trail. Moreover, one of the international trekkers’ mobile phone’s GPS detected that we were going in the wrong direction. Then, I crossed the trekkers walking ahead of me to stop them from going farther away from the right track. When I reached the tea shop owner, he told me to lead the group then onwards.
While returning towards the right trail, I happened to fall into a trench almost of my own height. To come out of the trench was challenging for me; however, other fellow trekkers helped me to come out of it. After walking for about ten minutes, I realized something had pricked on my right foot. Out of uneasiness, I had a look at the right foot, I was surprised to have found my right shoe missing, and I was only in a sock that was also torn out. I guessed my shoe stuck on the trench where I had fallen a little earlier.
Then, we reached such a section where the hill stood in the front and the steep edge in the back. Here, all of us took a short pause to think of the way out of this situation and the time was already around nine or ten pm night, I guess. It was not an appropriate situation to find out the right time due to the blizzard. We could not check our mobile to find the right time either. From among the crowd, a voice came “Let’s not move anywhere right or left from here. We don’t have the energy to move ahead and food to get more energy either. We are almost dead. If we die, people will find our corpses easily; in case we are alive, they will easily rescue us from a single place!”
I realized what an individual reminds of when he is about to die! The first thing that came to my mind was my MOTHER!
While taking the short pause, we noticed a few torch lights flashing at the bottom of the hill. Seeing them, we shouted as loud as we could for help; but it was futile. After a while, the torch lights went back towards the lower bottom.
During the pause, a few of the fellow trekkers were lying and then rolling down the hills a few meters. The trekkers were physically and mentally exhausted. Since the morning, we had not eaten anything except a few cups of tea. On this note, the voice was true to admit the reality of exhaustion due to the continuous battle against the harsh weather.
To a large extent, I was also convinced that I was going to die right then and there. At the end, my mind reminded the people and things, places it had to! The first thing that came to my mind was my MOTHER! And then, my family members, relatives, friends, and fellow trekkers following me at the moment came to my mind. I realized what an individual reminds of when he is about to die!
The entire surrounding looked dead silent as the fellow trekkers and the support team was thinking about what to do next! I couldn’t remain an exception to this moment! It was here I found to contemplate on my personal physical and psychological condition. I felt that my body was almost frozen due to the cold temperature and the snowflakes all over the body. Almost all body parts were numb due to the swelling. The skin had already become blue after its extreme redness due to the chilling weather. There were rashes all over the body parts including the parts covered by the clothes. The condition was rather ALARMING!
To encourage the defeated trekkers, I said, “Okay, guys, I agree that we are 98% dead But……
Here, I had a doubt whether I would be waking up the next morning because the distance was long and the weather still unfavorable. I was not sure whether we would reach a safer place by overcoming the challenges en route. “First of all, I may not wake up alive the next morning. And, even if I am alive, I will surely lose my limbs due to the frostbites. Oh, God, help me to save the people by keeping myself alive!” the thought kept on reeling my mind throughout the pauses over there.
To encourage the defeated trekkers, I said, “Okay, guys, I agree that we are 98% dead But, there is a still 2% chance for our survival even in this harsh condition! Why not use our last 2%? Maybe we will be successful in surviving!” In the beginning, nobody spoke a single word but then, a few of the fellows seemed convinced with my idea. Then, we moved ahead by crawling most of the time and walking by holding each other’s hands sometimes. We covered all the distance in proper cooperation in the dark night. Many times, I had to pull and push my lady guest as she was having problems moving ahead in the dark night. The nearer we reached towards the safe place, the lesser our team members were becoming!
I took a deep breath of relief as I thought “Now, I won’t die!
While moving ahead with the help of the white snow all around, we reached a flat that seemed quite familiar to me even at midnight! I recalled that the flat land was a meadow from where we could see Muktinath Region. Looking around, I noticed a light burning at a far distance in a village. Now, I took a deep breath of relief as I thought “Now, I won’t die!” “Hello, guys, now we are alive; you don’t have to worry about anything but keep following me until we reach the safe place. I recalled the location and the lodging area nearby!” I said to the fellow travelers. On the other hand, until then, the snowstorm and wind had almost stopped.
To be frank, before I reached that flat piece of land, I was not even sure whether I was going to live or not, let alone my guests and other trekkers. Anyway, I am thankful to the fellow trekkers and the tea shop owner who walked along with me by believing in me and my sense of time and space! By navigating the sloppy trail, we reached the teashops downhill in a total of twelve to fifteen persons. It was already 2:30 am when we reached there.
The hotels and tea shops were packed due to the rescue team and other trekkers. So, the rest of the others walked up to Muktinath whereas we took shelter downhill. One of the teashops was open, they served us noodles soup, hot water, tea to recover, they made a bonfire that eased our ice frozen on the body. While sitting around the fire, the ice of my body melted just as others experienced me. The snowflakes hanging at my eyelashes began falling like rain. In the light, I now looked at the body; it was swollen, turned blue due to the chilling cold temperature. I had frostbite on the right toe.
I had traversed for about 5 – 6 hours across the ice-covered trail
This is the time when I got to see my own physical condition after the dangerously challenging journey of about 24 hours. As my body, just like others had been exposed to the snowfall for a long time, it was natural that the effect would be unexpected. Looking at the body, I came to realize the pathetic condition of my body. From the point where I had fallen into a trench, I had walked without one shoe. When I realized that I was walking in just socks, which had also torn, I asked the people around if they had extra pairs of shoes. However, none of them replied that they had one! Due to the frightening experience throughout the journey, maybe they forgot what they had and what not!
Just in socks, I had traversed for about 5 – 6 hours across the ice-covered trail, so my legs were badly hurt.
Here also, I had lost hope that I would have to get my legs amputated due to the frostbite and lack of shoes. I think I realized that I had been walking without shoes; I would have had a disastrous impact on my body. But I was only concerned with finding the right trail and reaching the safer place with all the people with me! I realized that Mother Nature keeps us safe if we respect her and accept the challenges offered by Her! However, the condition of the limbs was not that devastating compared to the challenging situation I had come across. The bonfire lit by the hotel owner gave me great relief from the coldness as well as body aches. Thankfully the hotel owner provided a box bed for my guests while I slept on the floor.
The people of Muktinath were surprised to see us moving alive in front of them.
The next morning (October 14, 2014), we knew that the torch lights were of the rescue team of the Nepalese Army. They had been deployed for rescue operation but due to unfavorable circumstances, they retreated back to the tea shops. Around 9:00 am, the rescue teams began evacuating the casualties and people trapped in the snowstorm from around the Annapurna Region. The medical personnel of the rescue team diagnosed my sore body. A fellow trekker provided me with this extra pair of shoes although they were larger than my size, I happily accepted his gift!
We were unable to walk from the teashop to Muktinath. So, we hired a horse for each by paying NRS. 7, 000 by requesting the hotel owner. The route to Muktinath was still covered by the snow. The people of Muktinath were surprised to see us moving alive in front of them. The shocked people asked me about what happened last night. All the people were looking at us with surprise as if we were from another planet. The people appreciated me for being successful in living and helping people live. They adored my bravery and ground handling capacity even in the dreadful situation.
While continuing towards Muktinath, I saw my porter strolling along the path. He was also surprised to see us alive; he fell into tears when he saw us. “I thought you had died in the snowstorm because the guests were not able to walk properly. Moreover, the blizzard was really dreadful to have killed hundreds of trekkers on the way. Anyway, I am happy for you!” With a big smile, I said, “Hey, Uncle, I was born to help others in difficult times. I am a child of Mother Nature, so how can she kill her child?” We all burst into laughter in extreme happiness because we were all alive!
After spending a short time in Muktinath, we hired a private jeep and drove towards Jomsom, the district headquarters of Mustang. The hotel owner gave me a lift up to the hospital where I got primary treatment. A hospital official suggested I catch up with a chartered plane to reach the Kathmandu valley for further treatment.
However, I politely rejected his proposal because other people were severely injured by the Hudhud Cyclone that entered Nepal from the Bay of Bengal.
More than I, they needed the helicopter services to go for further treatment. Then, I said, “Sir, thank you very much for your suggestion and sense of humanity. However, there are dozens of casualties who need emergency evacuation for further treatment. So, they must be provided with this opportunity! I have a flight ticket for tomorrow. So, I will do further treatment myself when I reach Kathmandu.” We spent the night at Jomsom.
The next day (October 15, 2014), we flew to Pokhara from the Jomsom Airport. I was to use roadway services to return to Kathmandu. Nonetheless, the guest paid for my air ticket from Pokhara to Kathmandu thanking me for my help in that dreadful situation. After landing at Kathmandu Airport, I directly went to the hospital and was hospitalized for two weeks.
Tens of trekkers, guides, and porters had died and many others were lost
While in hospital, I came to know that the blizzard in Annapurna and Dhaulagiri Trekking Region was the highlight of most of the national and international media. Tens of trekkers, guides, and porters had died and many others were lost. Although I was a Survivor and Savior, I got low media coverage due to the poor health condition. Next, I was happy to be alive and help some people to be alive. For me, health is more important than the interview. But, The Wall Street Journal and Israeli News Channel 12 had covered my story.
From this event, I have learned a team spirit and good knowledge of guidance help us to defeat every challenge in life.
I think I am one of the very few luckiest people who escape such a devastating weather condition in the Himalayas. There was a high probability that I should have died in the snowstorm in the Annapurna region. However, a few things didn’t let me lose my hope and fighting spirit during the blizzard. First, my responsibility towards my clients and other fellow trekkers following me kept on pushing me towards safer places all the time. Second, I didn’t give up even in such a harsh weather condition. Third, the fellow trekkers and the support team accompanied me to overcome the challenges. Fourth, my hope to wake up alive the next morning kept encouraging me to move ahead up to a safe place. From this event, I have learned a team spirit and good knowledge of guidance help us to defeat every challenge in life.
After the events, I took a rest for about one year because of the frostbite on my right toes and some other health problem. Then I realized I was born for adventure and Mother nature was calling me to enjoy while respecting HER! Thus, I joined many other treks after then and have been still doing my best to help the national and international trekkers out there in the Himalayas. My passion to experience adventure in life pushed me to open a trekking company of my own. So, I started my own trekking company in; the spring of 2020; however, COVID-19 caused a severe hamper to my profession. I hope my experience in the Himalayas will help me guide more and more trekkers in the days to come ahead.