Shropshire

Nepal earthquake: Mountaineer Gareth Douglas back in UK

Gareth Douglas climbing Image copyright Gareth Douglas
Image caption Gareth Douglas flew back to Heathrow on Saturday afternoon

A British mountaineer caught up in the earthquake in Nepal has returned to the UK.

Gareth Doulas, 37, from Bridgnorth in Shropshire, had been preparing to climb Everest when the 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck a week ago.

More than 7,000 people are now known to have died and 14,000 have been injured.

Stranded at North Base Camp, Mr Douglas was hoping to join the relief effort in Kathmandu, but was unable to reach the city.

"It seemed like the right thing to do," he said.

"I'd studied first aid, so I felt like I could be of some use and we had a doctor and a nurse on the team.

"But the roads were completely destroyed and we couldn't get there by air either."

'Boulders crashing around'

Mr Douglas flew into Heathrow from Lhasa on Saturday.

Image copyright Gareth Douglas
Image caption The team had just climbed the North Col to help acclimatise themselves for Everest

He said the earthquake caused "boulders the size of cars" to crash down the mountain, but the scale of the disaster was not immediately clear.

"We had one climber with a broken leg and no deaths, so very lucky. South Base Camp was worse hit. It was only later we found out quite how bad it was."

The sherpas supporting Mr Douglas's team were from Kathmandu and initially there was no word on whether their families had survived. Like the climbing team they were stranded in North Base Camp for a few days.

"We gave them the tip money and just said 'go back, be with your families.'

"Their families were ok, but their houses were gone and they were sleeping on the streets."

'Huge dream'

Image copyright Gareth Douglas
Image caption Gareth Douglas said climbing Everest was a "huge dream"

Leaving Everest also meant abandoning a "huge dream" to climb the mountain.

"I was feeling strong, feeling good. We'd got to the top of the North Col and I felt like I was capable of going further.

"I'd been thinking about it [Everest] for years. It cost me a total of about £30,000 including travel, climbing permits and kit.

"I'd quit my job and sold my house in California to fund it. But money doesn't matter next to lives."

Mr Douglas said he had moved to the USA to pursue his dream of living and climbing in the mountains.

"The feeling of standing on a summit, especially the high altitude ones, is amazing."

He said he "can't wait" to return to Everest and said he might make another attempt next year, if the climbing permit could be transferred.

'No help'

Image copyright Evie Markham
Image caption Evie Markham is expected to return to the UK in the next few days

A friend of Mr Douglas's family, Sue Markham, from Albrighton, said her 18-year-old daughter had been caught up in the aftermath of the earthquake while on a gap year, but had received "no help" from the British embassy in Kathmandu.

Meanwhile, Ed Hullah, a paramedic from south Shropshire, is preparing to join the relief effort.

He swapped his planned all-inclusive holiday in Turkey for a self-funded trip to Kathmandu. He said he would join the Nepal Red Cross Society.

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