Dr. John All, a geology professor at the University of Western Kentucky, was taking snow samples from the 23,379-foot Mount Himlung in the Himalayas as part of a research project — when suddenly the mountain opened up beneath him. All plunged 70 feet down a seemingly endless crevasse, a deep crack in glacial ice that was concealed by snow.
His fate — certain death. Even if he survived the fall, which All amazingly did, how does a lone and seriously injured human being get himself out of a 70-foot deep hole in the middle of a glacier? It just doesn’t happen.
But it did. And All has the videos to prove it. (Note that the videos contain some profanity, certainly understandable given All’s situation.)
The 44-year-old mountain climber and climate change researcher said he turned on his video camera to give himself extra motivation to escape from the seemingly impossible situation. John All suffered a broken right arm, five broken ribs, frostbite and internal bleeding. It would have been easy to simply give in to the pain and wait to die.
“Your survival instinct kicks in and that’s why I filmed the video,” he said from a hotel in Kathmandu last Thursday, four days after he was finally rescued. “I couldn’t allow myself any doubt.”
All specializes in gathering climate change evidence from tall mountains. Debris taken from snow samples can tell scientists how fast the snow is melting at varying altitudes and to what extent man-made pollution affects the rate of melting.
All and his team originally planned their research climb for Mount Everest, but the deadly avalanche on the world’s tallest mountain last month rendered that impossible.
So they moved to Himlung, a peak in a remote corner of Nepal that has been climbed to the top only three times since the government there began allowing climbing on Himlung in 1992.
All was actually lucky that he fell just 70 feet before landing on jutting block of ice. The crevasse extended an estimated 300 more feet down. His only chance was, even in his broken state, to climb that 70 feet straight up.
“I knew that if I fell at any time in that entire four or five hours, I, of course, was going to fall all the way to the bottom of the crevasse,” All said. “Any mistake, or any sort of rest or anything, I was going to die.”
He made the excruciating climb with only his ice axe — a climb to freedom that took six hours. But his ordeal still was not over. He had another agonizing three-hour trek to his base camp where he could safely rest and wait for a rescue helicopter.
“Because of bad weather, the helicopter could not reach me on that day, so I knew I had to spend the night by myself,” he recalls.
John All spent one night in an intensive care unit then checked himself out, defying his doctors orders. He already has another mountain expedition planned for Peru later this year.