One foot in Nepal and the other in China, I cleared the ice from my oxygen mask. I hunched my shoulder against the wind, and stared down at the vastness of Tibet. The wispy clouds filled the valleys to the south. There was nothing above them apart from the clear sky and the faint sun rays,  piercing through the snow in a bristling moving line. I hadn’t slept in forty seven hours. The only food i had been able to force down my throat in the last three days was a bowl of ramen soup and a handful of M’s. Weeks of violent coughing had left me with two separated ribs that made ordinary breathing an agonizing experience. My eyes traced the line of the horizon and paused on the broad mountains towering above it. The jagged peaks gave me a great sensation of how I had made it. Made it to the top of the world. More climbers were starting to arrive now, most exhausted from the tiring journey. But we had all been waiting so long for this moment that everyone stood quiet in awe of the beautiful scenery surrounding us. I took four quick photos with the climbing guide striking summit poses and turned to start heading back down. As i slowly started descending from the summit, i noticed something that until that moment had escaped my attention. To the south, where the sky had been clear just a half hour earlier, a blanket of clouds was starting to assemble, meaning that an unexpected storm was coming our way. I carried hiking down, telling everyone whom i passed about the storm which was approaching. There was little time, and we had to move fast. As i came down to the northeast ridge it happened.Rumbling and roaring, a wave of white gushed down the mountain side.  A sudden boom dominated the frigid air as the powder exploded and echoed between the mountain peaks. I immediately flung my ice axe into the rocky path. In seconds, the powder was around me, kissing coldly. The noise was deafening; cold, darkness, pain; a longing feeling to just make it stop. I could feel the rumbling of the avalanche beneath my feet making me squeeze my axe even harder. Then everything stopped. The ringing in my ears started to die down, and the vibrations in the rocks around me moved away. As i turned around to retrieve my axe and check on the rest of the team, i saw the terrifying mist move away towards the southeast ridge. An instant cry rose about as the haze twirled around the little red figures seen from afar. It quickly migrated and started to disappear into the air as they tumbled down the mountain edge.Later, after six bodies had been located, after a search for two others had been abandoned, after surgeons had amputated the right hand of one of the team, we sat at base camp in shock of how much had happened in that one day. Nobody suspected that after that one day, every minute would matter. Only a couple hours earlier, no one had not known that seventeen men and women would be stranded up on the mountain by the storm, caught in a desperate struggle for their lives.


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