Kedrowski recounts deadly Mount Everest earthquake | VailDaily.com

Kedrowski recounts deadly Mount Everest earthquake

An earthquake-triggered avalanche leveled parts of Mount Everest Base Camp, killing at least 17 and injuring more than 60. Vail Valley native Jon Kedrowski was one eight Colorado climbers on Everest when the devastation his. They're all safe.
Jon Kedrowski|Special to the Daily |

VAIL — Dr. Jon Kedrowski was relaxing at Mount Everest Base Camp, but he found himself 200 yards above death’s door when Saturday’s earthquake hit.

Kedrowski’s reaction? He released his inner scientist.

Kedrowski earned his Ph.D. in geography and when the earthquake started shaking the world’s tallest mountain, he flew out of his tent. He’s a curious guy, and he figured if he lived through this he’d never see anything like it again.

“Because of the geographer/scientist in me, I was fascinated by the earthquake,” Kedrowski said. “To stand on that glacier and see it all was crazy.”

“The idea of danger didn’t kick in until the wind and snow started to roll,” he said.

When the 7.9-magnitude earthquake quit, a huge chunk of ice blew off and fell.

“The pressure from all that air had to go somewhere, and it blew over base camp like a hurricane,” Kedrowski said

“The major event wasn’t snow — it was wind,” Kedrowski said.

He summited Everest in 2012 and was headed up Lhotse, a neighboring peak, to ski down.

All eight are safe

Kedrowski, an Eagle Valley High School grad, was one of eight Colorado climbers on Everest when the devastation occurred. The others are author Jim Davidson, Alan Arnette, Charley Mace, Ryan Waters, Matt Moniz, Kim Hess and Dave Elmore.

They’re all safe.

Davidson, Arnette and Mace are at camps above the Khumbu Icefall, where the route over the glacier was destroyed.

“It was better that they were up there instead of base camp. Their camps were completely destroyed. When they came down they could see that if they’d been there, they might be among the casualties,” Kedrowski said.

Still trying to help

He’s fine, Kedrowski said, and remains on Everest to help anyone he can. Base Camp is about 70 percent abandoned, he said. The 30 percent remaining are trying to do everything they can.

“It’s been great to see the climbing community band together. It speaks highly about the character of the community,” Kedrowski said.

Kedrowski spent Sunday and part of Monday in base camp phoning family and friends, reassuring them he’s safe.

He’s headed down and will try to catch a flight out of Kathmandu as soon as he can.

The latest reports put the Everest death toll at 17 dead and climbing, with 60 injured, making it the deadliest day in Everest history.

Across the Nepal, more than 4,000 are dead and villages are pleading for any kind of help.

Two of Everest’s deadliest days

Kedrowski has now been on Everest for two of the mountain’s four deadliest days.

He was near the summit in 2012 when a killer storm surprised everyone and left seven people dead.

Last April, 16 Sherpa guides died in an ice fall on Everest.

This was nothing like that.

“A mountaineering tragedy, especially under those conditions, is something that you always understand could happen,” Kedrowski said.

Base camp, though, is supposed to be a safe refuge.

“You think you’re safe. The base camp has never been impacted. To be hit like this in a place considered safe is unsettling,” he said.

Still …

“I go on these expeditions because they’re exciting,” Kedrowski said.

He has camped atop all of Colorado 14ers and skied down the tallest volcanoes in the U.S.

This year’s Everest climbing season is closed. Kedrowski says he’s happy to be alive and uninjured but a little disappointed that he won’t be skiing Lhotse.

He may try Everest again. Or maybe not.

“I’d never say never, but maybe I’ll focus on some other mountains for a while,” he said.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.