NEWS

Nepal earthquake: Everest avalanche is 3rd narrow escape for Toronto adventurer Joe Raftis

04/28/2015 09:49 EDT | Updated 08/01/2015 05:59 EDT
At 3 a.m. ET Saturday, Shelly Raftis's phone rang. A call in the dead of night, with her husband Joe on Mount Everest, couldn't be good, but she never expected what she heard next.

"It was unbelievable terror in his voice," she said.

"Shelly, there are avalanches all around the mountain," he told her. "I don't know what to do. I have to get off the mountain."

He asked her to turn on the TV to see if there was any news of what was shaking Everest. By the time she ran to the television, the call had gone dead.

Joe Raftis was at base camp, on his second attempt to scale the summit of the highest mountain in the world. He had been caught in a deadly series of avalanches that obliterated part of the base camp, killing at least 18.

"I didn't sleep, not at all that night," she recalled. "At seven, he was able to get another call out to say he was walking down from base camp. Then nothing for another 26 hours."

By Monday, Raftis was somewhere on the mountain walking out toward a small airport at Lukla, the gateway to Everest, where he hoped to catch a commuter flight to Kathmandu. That small airport, however, remains clogged with flights trying to provide earthquake relief. Scores of planes have been turned away.

Raftis runs Europe Bound, a chain of outdoor outfitting stores in Toronto. His goal was to reach the summit of the seven highest peaks in the world, and he's nearly done it.

Last April, he was caught in another deadly avalanche on Everest that killed 16 Nepalese Sherpas.

"When the mountain has told you twice in two years she does not want to be climbed, you need to listen to that," said Shelly Raftis, still recognizing that this is her husband's dream.

She has certainly borne her share of adventurer's stress.

Two years ago, in April 2013, her husband ran the Boston Marathon, finishing less than an hour before the bombing. His family was still waiting for him at the time of the blast.

What will she tell him when he finally gets out of Nepal and comes home?

"That's it, no more," she smiles, a touch painfully.

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