A Northampton-born doctor who managed to survive the Nepal earthquake after spending a whole night avoiding avalanches says it was a case of “moving or dying”.
Hayley Saul, aged 32, was trekking near to the base of the Himalayas when the earthquake, which measured 7.8 on the Richter scale, hit on Saturday.
Ms Saul, an archaeologist who had been studying Himalayan heritage, had left Langtang village just two hours before it was wiped out by a landslide.
As the disaster hit, she was trekking with her friend Emma Waterton and a guide, en route to Lama Hotel, the next village on the trail.
In a piece sent to her sister Emma Price, aged 24, of Northampton, Ms Saul said she was forced to run for her life as large boulders fell down towards them.
She said: “It was hard to see because the air was filled with dust, but we could see enough to dodge out of the way of several huge boulders that were tumbling down the slope towards us. One of them hit the stone under which Emma was sheltering, which started to collapse. She just managed to scramble out as it fell forward.”
There was constant panic as we moved over them because we could hear rock fall all around and couldn’t pinpoint where it was coming from.
Ms Saul said the group was forced to cross over three landslides to get to Lama Hotel where they could call for a helicopter rescue.
She said: “There was constant panic as we moved over them because we could hear rock fall all around and couldn’t pinpoint where it was coming from. The local porters and Chang-ju held our hands the whole way and guided us over particularly difficult patches.
“After at least an hour we managed to get to Lama Hotel, totally exhausted.”
When they reached Lama Hotel, the group joined another 40 locals and 15 trekkers, however the danger of the landslides had not subsided.
Ms Saul said the group was forced to “zig-zag” across the ground all night to avoid the constant avalanches.
She said: “We basically spent the night half listening for landslides and half listening to rumbling sounds from upstream which we thought might indicate an impending flashflood. In all honesty, we didn’t think we would survive the night. On top of the physical dangers, it was freezing cold and raining hard, we hadn’t eaten since breakfast and we were exhausted.
“If a landslide had come down right on top of us we wouldn’t have been able to do anything.”
At first light the next day Ms Saul decided to trek up to a place on the top of the mountain called Sharpe Gaon, where they would have a better chance of getting a helicopter rescue.
Ms Saul said the path was “completely decimated” for a large portion of the route and the group was forced to go straight up the steep, rocky cliff face, using clumps of grass and roots to cling on whilst they traversed around to where they could pick up the path again. She said: “Dehydrated and weak, our lungs were pushed beyond what we ever thought we could physically do. We wanted to stop so much and just lie down against the rock but we both kept saying to ourselves that it was a choice between moving or dying – that’s no exaggeration. Rock debris continued to tumble around us as we climbed.”
After finally reaching Sharpe Gaon, Ms Saul’s group were rescued by helicopter and taken to the safety of the capital city, Kathmandu.
Ms Saul said she wanted to try to raise money for the people in Nepal, particularly for the community of Langtang that suffered devastating consequences of the earthquake.
She has set up a Just Giving webpage to raise money www.justgiving.com/Langtang-Survivors and is also encouraging people to donate to Community Action Nepal (CAN) at www.canepal.org.uk