The helicopter landing zone 15min before event a ) where woodrow ran too and fell into crevasse b) where we started when rockfall happened c ) two emergency landings by helicopter in extreme danger of rotor being damanged by falling debris
After around 30 seconds the sky cleared and the noise stopped - I propped my head out and captured a wider view of what was in front of me. The scale of the rockfall now is daunting but at the time I didn’t understand what was happening very clearly. Thousands of shards, rocks and boulders.
I then heard richard scream at me. I propped up further and turned to look back at the landing zone. richard, Krystal and Jackson were huddled together and once richard stood up I screamed that I needed help to get out of the crevasse. I sat there for 10 seconds in disbelief that we were all alive.
As Richards radio had failed he violently signalling to another helicopter ( not ours ) overhead to clear away - as even small rocks can compromise the rotors dramatically. It was another tour group leaving another landing zone who had witnessed the event from the sky.
He rushed over pulled me out and I instantly hugged him and grabbed his face screaming ‘ I have never going to forget your face ‘ - he sprinted back to others who had just started looking back at the cliff face.
I ran up to Jackson - we hugged elated that we were somehow alive.
Once I saw up close the size and nature of the rocks I started to shake as they were massive, razor edge and numerous.
The quiet didn't last long as the second landing attempt started - without earplugs the noise was quite deafening. We started to make our way back to the helicopter clambering over the ice and staring in disbelief at all the debris around us.
Suddenly my heart sank - the elation and disbelief of being alive suddenly and dramatically reversed as the pilot made an emergency take off and disappeared northwards - I looked behind us as the noise from the second avalanche started. The sudden change from noise of rotors to rockfall I can’t describe adequately.
We then all ran to our right a few metres to the nearest gap in the ice - huddled together and said nothing. The dust came again, the noise and debris flying around us - again waiting to die.
Huddled together the fear started really settling in - helplessness and flinching with every noise - almost worst knowing the size and scale of what was coming.
Laying there as a ball I couldn’t help but think that I can’t do this to my mother - she barely made it through my younger brother Taylor passing away in May 2014. I couldn’t do this to her, I couldn't be so selfish as to die.
After the longest 30 seconds the helicopter suddenly made a sudden landing and the noise again shifted back to deafening rotor blades.
Richard immediately bolted and signalled us to go.
Once we were in the helicopter I felt a sense of disbelief and let go and cried and shook until I could get my breath back. Covered in dust and mud and tears we started to fly back to back camp - I filmed the accent to capture the source of the rockfall.
I looked over at Richard - the dirt here shows just what covered us. The next morning he would fly out to revisit the zone and he explained he were even luckier than he first imagined.
It was the closest he has been to death in his career.
Thank-you for reading this.
It’s in a way me trying to deal with what happened - having the 4th wall as a story teller helps me digest the seriousness of the situation.
The main point here is I completely respect mother nature - its unpredictablity and the illusion of safety we all have in life - but more to gratitude to Richard the guide and Jamie the pilot for risking their own lives for mine.
I am lucky I had the support of my friend Jackson - in a way we’re connected now by this experience more so than a usual friendship.
There is a larger part to this story and the events afterwards are quite complex and ongoing. The entire glacier operation has been closed down on that section of the mountain. - and is testament to the seriousness of what happened. Upon investigation later on I discovered some gross negligence on the side of the tourism operator - essentially not paying for the geological studies to be performed to determine structural integrity of the rock face.
Thank-you Richard and Jamie. Thank-you again and again.
It seems frivolous compared to what we went through, but I was pleasantly surprised at the professionalism by Leica - as they offered me a replacement body the next day. I politely declined as I was a little too shaken to keep shooting.