published Saturday, April 19th, 2014

California man says he was on Everest during avalanche

Family members of Nepalese mountaineer Ang Kaji Sherpa, killed in an avalanche on Mount Everest, cry as his body is brought to the Sherpa Monastery in Katmandu, Nepal, Saturday, April 19, 2014.
Family members of Nepalese mountaineer Ang Kaji Sherpa, killed in an avalanche on Mount Everest, cry as his body is brought to the Sherpa Monastery in Katmandu, Nepal, Saturday, April 19, 2014.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

SANTA ROSA, Calif. — A California man said he was on Mount Everest when an avalanche struck that killed at least 13 people.

Kenwood, Calif., contractor Jon Reiter said his Sherpa guide pushed him behind some ice blocks and out of harm's way after the avalanche struck. Reiter, who said he was climbing the mountain with an Australian partner, talked to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat (http://bit.ly/1hcOA0R ) in an interview by satellite phone from base camp in Nepal, where he wrote a blog entry to let family and friends know he was OK.

"We were moving up to Camp 1 just after dawn when we heard that 'crack,' " said Reiter, 49. "My first thought was to film it, and I reached for my camera. But the Sherpa yelled to get down. Things started happening in slow motion. Big blocks of snow and ice started coming down all around."

It's not clear how close Reiter was to the avalanche when it killed the Sherpa guides. But in response to questions, Reiter wrote on his blog Saturday: "There were very few western climbers in the area and all of us had our climbing Sherpa by our sides and they all survived."

The Associated Press' request for comment from Reiter's wife, Susan, wasn't immediately answered.

Mount Everest is the last challenge in Reiter's goal of climbing the highest peak on each continent.

It was his second attempt to climb the 29,035-foot mountain. Last year, he was forced to turn back around the same spot when an ice bridge collapsed and cut off his team's climbing route.

Reiter told the newspaper he will likely wait a few days before continuing the ascent up Everest.

Friday's avalanche slammed a group of about 25 Sherpa guides who were hauling gear to the higher camps that their foreign clients would use in attempting to reach the summit.

"We are shaken but OK," Reiter wrote on his blog. "One thought is that we were so lucky. But the overwhelming feelings are for the poor families of the people that didn't make it."

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