UPDATE: Greg Hill survives Nepal avalanche that killed at least nine
Revelstoke's Greg Hill is amongst the mountaineers that survived a massive avalanche on Nepal's Mount Manaslu that killed at least nine people early Sunday morning.
"A huge avalanche swept through camp 3 at 4:45am on Manaslu, catching lots of people in their sleeping bags, many dead, and injured," he wrote on Facebook Sunday morning. "Luckily our team is fine, and helped with the rescue, Glenn Plake is also fine but my heart goes out to all the others."
For his wife Tracy, "relieved" was the word she used after learning about the incident, and her husband's safety. She was away camping when news of the avalanche broke Sunday morning and didn't find out until she returned home at around 5:30 p.m. that day and found 31 messages on her answering machine.
Fortunately, the first one was from Greg.
"It took about five messages for it to sink in," she told the Times Review. "It didn't sink in when Greg said it because he kind of played it off a little bit. He said it was a big avalanche and a lot of people died, but he was fine and he'd call later. Five messages later, after reporters and some friends, it sunk in and I cried. It was overwhelming."
Hill was part of a Dynafit-sponsored expedition with German speed climbers Benedikt Bohm and Sebastian Haag, who were attempting a speed skiing record to the summit of Mt. Manaslu, which, at 8,156 metres, is the world's eighth highest peak. Hill was a videographer with the expedition.
Plake, the legendary freeskier, was part of another skiing expedition on the mountain. Two other members of his team died.
According to news reports, the avalanche happened while people were sleeping at camp three on the mountain, which is located at an elevation of about 7,000 metres. Nine people were confirmed dead as of press time, with six more missing, including Quebec doctor Dominic Ouimet. The rest of the deceased included one Nepalese Sherpa and eight Europeans.
Tracey spoke to Greg Sunday evening. "I talked to him and we had a good conversation so I found out everything," she said. "Now I'm definitely relieved more than anything."
Greg told her that he and his team were camped away from the avalanche path that slid, but were woken up by the thundering slide at around 4:45 a.m. They waited for it to get light and to make sure it was safe out before going out to help.
Plake relayed an account of the avalanche to the website EpicTV, which was providing updates of his expedition. Plake told EpicTV the avalanche struck camp three, where 25 tents were set up. It then flowed down into camp two 500 metres below, rattling a further 12 tents. He said he was in his tent when the avalanche hit and he was swept down the mountain.
According to the Plake, it was Hill that rescued him.
"The Dynafit crew [Canadian skier Greg Hill's team] were sleeping at a high Camp 2 and were immediately on site to rescue people," Plake told EpicTV. "Sergio, Stephane, Doji our Sherpa – all strong alpinists – have all come up to search. We’ve done three searches but when the fog rolled in we had to call it off. It was a massive search [field], probably 600 to 700 meters across.
"It’s a war zone up here.”
Greg Hill has spent much of his adult life skiing in the backcountry. He is most famous for climbing and skiing a record two-million vertical feet in 2010 and he has accomplished several first ski descents. Tracey said she does her best not to think about what Greg is doing when he is out in the mountains.
"I try not to think, is the key," she said. "Not that I don't think – I worry – but I think with anything that Greg does you can't worry because you can't live your life worrying about something that may or may not happen. For me, I just don't think about it."
Hill and his team started their expedition by skiing off the summit of 6,470-metre-high Mera Peak earlier this month, prior to making their attempt on Manaslu
"So far this has been an adventure unlike any I have been on in the past," he wrote on his website www.greghill.ca. "I have come to the Himalayas for my first time and am being blown away by the culture, the people, the mountains and the altitude."
Tracey spoke to Greg every five days on this trip, she said. She knows him to be safe and not take "crazy risks."
"Not that you can predict everything that's going to happen but I know him and I know he won't do anything that would mean he won't be coming home, and I trust him for that," she said.
Following the avalanche the team returned to base camp and were scheduled to return to Kathmandu, Nepal, for the flight home. Tracey said she hoped he would be back in time for their anniversary this Thursday, Sept. 27.
"I just want him home."