Malaysian climbers live through ordeal which killed 18 on the mountain

Malaysian climbers live through ordeal which killed 18 on the mountain
Scene at the Everest Base Camp on April 25 after the Nepal Quake struck and caused a massive avalanche at Everest.Courtesy pic by Azim Afif

UTM student Azim Afif Ishak was at the Everest Base Camp (EBC) when the 7.8 earthquake struck Nepal hard last Saturday, triggering a deadly avalanche killing 18 people on the mountain.

"It sounded like a 50-storey building collapsing," said Azim who was stranded for a week with four other Malaysians at the base camp.

"We felt unsafe. And we were thinking quickly where to shield ourselves and praying to survive. We followed the instructions from our Sherpas.

"They told us to stick together," he told The Star through Whatsapp while still at the EBC.

Luckily, Azim and his UTM mission to Everest team and their Sherpas were all safe and their tents not destroyed.

"But the mood at the camp was very gloomy. We saw the dead and injured and felt sorry and sad that this tragedy had happened," he added.

This is the second time Azim has been face to face with a deadly disaster.

Last year, while the UTM team was at the Everest Base Camp for the climb, an avalanche on April 18 killed 16 Sherpas putting an early end to the climbing season.

"The difference with the one last year was there was no quake, so it was still safe for us to trek down," Azim shared.

This time however, it was too dangerous for them to trek down because of the earthquake, avalanches and loose rocks.

So they were stuck at EBC for a week while waiting for helicopters to evacuate them.

Other than Azim, the other two climbers are Jamhuri Jumari and Farul Aidib Mahamad Yusoff while the other two, Azham Afzanizam Hamzah and Anis Zulaikha Zabani are the support team who remained at the base camp while the three made their climb.

In preparation for their two month-long mission (April 1 to June 8), the team had brought ample food and water supply, the necessary generators for power and satellite phones for communication.

They were planning to summit between May 20 to 25 but since they could not continue their training for the climb after the quake, and were stranded at the base camp, they played monopoly, snakes and ladders and Old Maid to pass time.

Azim said there were all sorts of rumours and "fake news" about another possible quake and avalanches which made them all jittery.

"But each time, we would check with a trusted authority - it was a relief when it turned out to be false. We have to be constantly on alert because of the disaster and bad weather."

On May 1, a helicopter finally arrived and the group made it out first to Lukla then to Kathmandu.

Amid digging up bodies, assessing the devastation and damage that tore up the country and rebuilding, the Nepali government announced it was opening new routes and fixing the ladders to Everest this week.

Azim said his team has not decided whether to try it this year.

"Maybe we are destined to reach Everest from the Tibet side instead," he said through another whatsapp message after arriving in Kathmandu.

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