Local woman cheats death on Everest

2015-05-01 06:00
PhotoS: supplied
Marlette de Jager with climbers in this photo taken on Tuesday morning before leaving base camp.

PhotoS: supplied Marlette de Jager with climbers in this photo taken on Tuesday morning before leaving base camp.

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AN avid mountain climber from Port Shepstone is among a group of South Africans­ who survived an avalanche and the aftershocks that hit the slopes of Mt Everest in Nepal after the country was hit by a massive earthquake on Saturday

Marlette de Jager, one of 10 South Africans attempting to surmount the world’s highest peak, recounted the ordeal via WhatsApp while on the mountain.

The group had left South Africa on 28 March and had planned to summit on 20 May and be back in the country a few days later.

Although reports say the overall death toll in Nepal is nearing 7000, De Jager said about 13 climbers lost their lives at base camp when the avalanche flattened their tents.

Reports say the earthquake measured 7.8 on the Richter scale.

She recounted how, after coming out of a kitchen tent with mugs in her hand, she suddenly felt the earth moving and shaking under her feet.

“I was firstly confused that leftover liquid was spilling from the one mug, thinking I was wobbling on the snow under my feet. How- ever when some of my team-mates emerged from one tent looking shocked I realised it wasn’t just me.”

She said at that moment rocks started tumbling down the slopes and a huge cloud of dust and snow sped down towards them.

“I dropped the mugs and for a millisecond debated in my mind whether to reach for a video camera or duck for cover.”

She says she chose the latter, ducking into the community tent where she found some of her team on their knees praying, others battling to support the tent and other trying to take cover under inflatable chairs.

“The cloud buffeted the tent as it passed over us, darkening the sky and filling our hearts with fear.”

A headcount afterwards revealed that everyone in the group was accounted for but De Jager says the news that has been reported about the event has been hugely blown out of proportion.

On Wednesday morning the group left base camp for Pang- boche­ where they will await the official word of whether they can continue with the climb or head home.

She said if she didn’t get the chance to climb and reach the summit she would be very disappointed as this has been her dream and had spent a lot of time preparing for it.

De Jager was bitten by the mountain climbing bug in 2000 after she and her three friends decided to climb up Kilimanjaro in Tanzania while on an adventurous drive through Africa. Since then she has climbed Mt Elbrus in Russia, Mt Aconcagua in Argentina and Mt Denali in North America.

De Jager lives in Johannesburg where she works, but her family live on the South Coast.

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