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Kenwood climber recalls Mt. Everest's deadliest day (w/video)

  • Jon Reiter was on Mt. Everest at 19,000 feet between base camp and Camp 1, when the deadly high-altitude avalanche killed twelve sherpas on April 18th. Reiter is now back at home in Kenwood. (Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)

"In the icefall, it's intense," said Reiter, 49. "You're hyper aware of your surroundings. Everyone's concerned because you know those blocks are creeping slowly downhill. And eventually they're all going to tip."

They were going to follow a team of 30 Sherpas carrying heavy loads of supplies up to stock the higher camps.

At 4 a.m., though, one of Reiter's teammates was missing. He had overslept his alarm and was scrambling to get dressed and secure his climbing harness.

Mount Everest Avalanche

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The group of Sherpas left on time. About three hours later, a powerful avalanche swept down the mountain killing 16 and injuring another nine.

Because of the missed alarm, Reiter and his group were 10 minutes behind and watched the disaster from a few hundred yards away.

"They left right at 4. We left a little late," Reiter said. "Isn't that wild? You think about that and you think about the timing of life. It was ironic."

In an interview a week after returning from Nepal, Reiter, who builds custom homes in the Sonoma Valley, spoke at length about witnessing the avalanche and its impact on the Sherpa community.

He was on his second attempt of the 29,035-foot mountain having turned back in the Khumbu Icefall last year. The mountain is the last in his goal of climbing the Seven Summits, the highest peak on each continent.

Reiter described the sound the avalanche made as being like a long, dull gun shot. Dawa Sherpa, his guide, helped him get to shelter behind some ice blocks.

"I was thinking 'That wasn't that far away. This is all going to come at me,'" he said. "As I'm thinking all that, I look up and Dawa was like 'Get down, get down!' I snapped to really quick like this is coming at us. Right about then, the cloud comes over you. It's just little pelts of ice. Think of horizontal hail coming at you."


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