Experienced climber Mariusz Malkowski recalls the very moment the earth began to tremble on that fateful April 25th.
“I was well into the process of getting my body ready for 8,000m when the avalanche struck,” he says.
“I was sitting in my tent and I felt the ground shaking, so I knew right away that there was an earthquake and it was a pretty big one because the glaciers were moving everything around and it was cracking. Like everybody else I came out of the tent and started looking around to make sure that everyone was okay, and then seconds later I heard a big thump sound and half of the mountain came down.”
Mariusz was taking part in the Fibaro Mount Everest Challenge – powered by Z-Wave, where he aimed to scale Mount Everest and control Fibaro and other Z-Wave-powered devices located on the other side of the globe.
The earthquake and subsequent avalanche struck as Mariusz reached the halfway point of the expedition – four weeks into the trip.
“I saw big waves of snow and debris coming down, so I hid behind my tent and scrambled for cover. I found a little crevice and I just crawled into it for a minute or two.
“Everything was covered with snow, but the air pressure and velocity of air was ripping tents apart. A couple of my friends’ tents were blown hundreds of feet further down the glacier. Then we started helping others.
I was on the northern tip of the base camp so I wasn’t as affected as everybody else, but the middle part was pretty much levelled. There were no tents standing, people were looking through the rubble and were needing help.”
For the next few hours Mariusz and anyone who was able brought people to the hospital to seek treatment by digging them out.
“People trapped inside of tents were pretty badly injured. I can tell you one thing; if that had happened in the middle of the night we would not be talking about 20 or 30 dead people, we would be talking about hundreds. What saved these people was getting out of the tent and looking for cover. If they were in tents in the night they would have been picked up by that wind and thrown off and worse.”
Arrangements were soon made to rescue Mariusz and any survivors, and just 28 hours after the disaster struck, he was returned to his wife and son in Newark, US.
“It’s pretty surreal, yes,” he exclaims. “It took exactly 28 hours – I counted the other day – from when I was standing on the glacier to when I was walking into my house, which is pretty remarkable because of what happened.
“It was hard to know how badly Kathmandu was affected but once I got home I saw that they have no water, electricity, no food. I still have friends that I am trying to get in touch with – I know they’re out there and that they’re okay but they are trying to get back to civilisation.”
Before the earthquake struck, Mariusz did successfully participate in parts of the Fibaro/ Z-Wave challenge, including controlling a coffee machine in Las Vegas.
“We did a couple of demonstrations. One was a security tradeshow in Las Vegas. That was the easy part. We controlled a few devices and that was a success. I wish I had that coffee because I was really cold up there!
“I live and breathe home automation – I have that all at home – I’ve been using it throughout our trip. Even in camp two I managed to use it to see my house and make sure that everybody was okay.”
Now that the ordeal is behind him, will Mariusz consider doing anything like this again?
“I’ve been in dicey situations before – although this was definitely top of the list – but I wouldn’t be a climber if I wasn’t persistent, right? Will I ever go back to Everest? I probably will; it may not be next year or the year after but I will be back. It’s the highest one in the world, it’s iconic.”
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