Raphael Slawinski, 48, is one of Canada’s leading alpinists. He was on the north side of Mt. Everest on April 25—attempting a new route on the Northeast Face in alpine style and without bottled oxygen—when the 7.8 magnitude Earthquake rocked Nepal.
“The day was chilly, with occasional flurries sifting down from a gray sky. We were lounging in the mess tent after lunch, bellies full of couscous and salad, when the earthquake happened. It started as a feeling of unease, of wrongness, like a silently onrushing avalanche. At first we didn’t know what was going on, then someone said, “Earthquake!” We rushed outside of the mess tent. The ground was shaking harder and harder: it was becoming hard to keep your balance. I sat down on the cobbles. The initial eerie silence was broken by the clatter of rocks bouncing down the hillsides above basecamp. Stones emerged from clouds of dust only to be swallowed up again. Long after the shaking stopped we kept asking ourselves, “Can you feel it? Can you?” It was hard to tell the difference between aftershocks and the pounding of blood in our temples. “