- Associated Press - Saturday, May 2, 2015

FOND DU LAC, Wis. (AP) - A Fond du Lac hospice nurse climbing Mount Everest said Saturday he thought he was going to die when a powerful earthquake in Nepal set off an avalanche.

Andy Land, 52, told The Associated Press his team was on a glacier surrounded by crevasses on a camp above base camp on April 25 when the avalanche struck.

“We were in our tents and we thought this is the mother of all avalanches coming,” he said by phone from Phortse, Nepal. “You could hear it roaring down on either side of us and thought for sure we were just going to die in the next 10 seconds because there’s no place to go.”

But he said just high winds hit them and they were otherwise safe.

The magnitude-7.8 quake has claimed more than 6,600 lives, damaged more than a million homes and displaced nearly 3 million people. It killed 19 at basecamp and has temporarily closed Everest.

About 24 hours later, some of his team tried to go down and an aftershock hit, Land said, but they narrowly escaped. They knew they couldn’t trek back down so a helicopter had to take them back to base camp.

When they arrived, he said it looked like a “tornado went through.”

“There were people and expedition gear a thousand feet onto the glacier, huge boulders,” he said. “It was just incredible I had never seen anything like it.”

“It was really a very harrowing couple of days around that time,” he said.

He said that he had hired the biggest guide service on the mountain so they had enough supplies to walk to various small towns. They have been helping render medical care and other assistance.

“We’re traveling through the countryside and almost every structure we see is damaged,” he said.

He said they are trying to get to a mountain town with an airport, but there are 1,500 people also trying to get out so it could be a while. He is unlikely to be able to return to the United States for another week, he said.

Land doesn’t think he will return to Everest because the trip is such a large undertaking.

“It’s not that I’m afraid of dying so much,” he said. “It’s just, it’s a really, really hard thing to do.”

Land has been calling his Mount Everest journey “Climbing for Hospice” and was using the climb to raise money for The HOPE of Wisconsin, a hospice and palliative care organization. He said he hopes to still use his story to educate people about the need for better end-of-life care.

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