NEWS

Nepal earthquake: Canadian climber Joe Raftis describes Mount Everest avalanche

05/01/2015 12:23 EDT | Updated 05/01/2016 05:12 EDT
Joe Raftis only made it about 15 metres before he realized he couldn't outrun the Mount Everest avalanche bearing down on him.

He was in a dining tent at Everest base camp when last Saturday's devastating earthquake hit Nepal, causing an avalanche to roar down a path on the mountain it's never supposed to take.

"It felt like the whole tent was being shaken by a giant," said Raftis, who ran out of the tent to see what was going on.
 
"I saw a massive wall of snow coming at me and I thought: What the hell am I going to do?"

Raftis tried to run, but wasn't fast enough. 

He got lucky, though. He was only blanketed in snow. Just 15 metres from him, others were not as fortunate. There were at least 18 deaths. 

Base camp on Everest is generally thought to be in a zone that is protected from avalanches, but the earthquake may have shifted the flow of the snow, causing it to roar down a path it's never supposed to take.

"Honest to God, when that earthquake came at me, I didn't know if I would live or die. But I was spared," Raftis said.

He's been lucky before.
 
Raftis, 54, the Toronto owner of the adventure travel shop Europe Bound, was at Everest base camp in April 2014 when 16 Nepalese guides were killed by an avalanche.

And in April 2013, he ran the Boston Marathon, finishing before the explosions rocked the finish line, killing three people and wounding hundreds.
 
"I really do feel lucky. Honestly, three in row? Like, seriously?" Raftis told CBC producer Sylvia Thomson in Kathmandu as he prepared to return to Canada on Sunday morning.

This was his last attempt at Everest. Raftis said he won't return to the mountain for a third try. When he got to Kathmandu, he asked his wife, Shelly, if there was anything she wanted from Nepal because he's never going back there.
 
Before he left home for this climbing trip, his 16-year-old daughter told him she didn't want him to go. She gave him what he described as the most extended hug she has ever given him. He took that to the mountain with him, he said. And now he says Everest may simply not be worth it.
 
His advice to others: "Think twice or three times before doing it. Some things are not worth the risk and financial burden." 

"It's no big deal," he said. "That mountain has been conquered 40,000 times already."

MORE:cbcNews