By Teri Saylor (photos courtesy of Ron Wahula)
On April 28, Ron Wahula of Raleigh, N.C. is exhausted and ready to be back at home after a dream trip to Mount Everest he had been planning for a year, turned into a nightmare when an earthquake, registering 7.8 on the Richter Scale demolished parts of Nepal and launched an avalanche of rocks, snow, and debris down the mountain, burying parts of the Base Camp and sending trekkers scurrying for cover.
Ron, whose trekking group was below the main area of destruction, escaped the full force of the avalanche but was shaken up. His wife, Carol Wahula, reported his trekking group was too close for comfort, and no one was hurt.
“They felt the earthquake, heard the avalanche, and saw the cloud of snow coming and felt the wind it generated,” she reported in a Facebook message. “They took cover and luckily they were covered only by a couple of inches of snow.”
Ron is the race director for the Raleigh City of Oaks Marathon and director of the Raleigh Galloway Marathon Training Program. He has set his sights on adventure and endurance sports in recent years. In 2013, he completed the Umstead 100 Endurance Run, and set his sights on achieving his dream to climb to Base Camp on Mount Everest.
He signed on for a 21-day REI-sponsored trek and left Raleigh on April 13, bound for Nepal.
He had trained for an entire year, spending hours biking, hiking with a heavy backpack, and last summer he attempted the Pike’s Peak marathon, but was denied a finish when he missed a cut-off by minutes.
After arriving in Kathmandu, Wahula started posting photos on his Facebook page, along with enthusiastic commentary about the area’s beauty. His travelogue included photos of himself standing before Mount Everest’s majestic summit.
On Saturday, April 25, those pictures turned tragic. Gray, foggy pictures of snow and destruction replaced his earlier photos of clear, blue skies. The once festive, colorful tent city was covered over with snow, ice and gravel.
Ron posted his experience on Facebook:
“Saturday, April 25th, we departed Gorek Shep. elevation 17,000 + , headed for our goal of Everest Base Camp at 11:30 a.m.,” he wrote. “Approx. 15 minutes into our 2-1/2 hour trek, a massive earthquake occurred. It lasted about 1 minute and as soon as it ended, a huge white and grey cloud that looked like a tidal wave was headed right for us though the valley. Our Sherpas told us to hit the ground. The avalanche lasted 4 or 5 minutes. When it stopped we were covered with only 3 or 4 inches of snow. We were very lucky. Our entire group is well and safe.”
In a text message on April 28, Ron said his group had just finished their third day of a five-day hike back to Lukla, the starting and ending point for Mount Everest trekkers. He described a surreal scene of destruction.
“Lots of damaged buildings and the trail is damaged with rock falls, and helicopters are constantly in the air rendering aid to victims,” he wrote. “From Lukla, we fly to Kathmandu.”
According to Carol Wahula, Ron has lost about 15 pounds during his adventure and is most looking forward to getting a hot shower and eating a hot fudge sundae.