Nepal earthquake survivors return to Raleigh

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- Two men from the Triangle are back home after surviving Nepal's deadly earthquake and avalanche that followed on Mt. Everest.

Ron Wahula and John Dodd returned Monday afternoon, flying into RDU International Airport where their wives were anxiously waiting for them.

Wahula called it an epic adventure. He's wanted to climb to Mt. Everest's base camp for years and the day he would've done just that, the deadly 7.8 magnitude earthquake changed his course.

"No worse for the ware and I'm just glad to be home," Wahula told Eyewitness News as he arrived at RDU.

On April 25, he was 17,000 ft. up Mt. Everest heading for base camp. He was less than two miles away when he heard loud rumblings.

"The earthquake started and it was thunderous!" he said.

That 'thunder' was snow breaking loose, creating an avalanche.

"We looked up and it was this giant black and grey cloud coming at us. Our sherpa said 'hit the ground!'"

As the heavy snow came plummeting in their direction, Wahula threw himself into survival mode.

"I kept sticking my head up, trying to figure out how much snow was being dropped, how I was gonna dig out if necessary."

His climbing partner John Dodd will never forget that moment.

"The ground is moving, you're trying to run, and every place you put your foot isn't there," he described.

When the avalanche passed, everyone in their climbing group was accounted for but the base camp where they were headed was wiped out.

"At that point the trip had changed," said Wahula. "It was no longer a fun thing it was a very dangerous place to be."

Dozens of other climbers were killed in the avalanche. Wahule and Dodd were the lucky ones who now had to turn around and go back down. After five days of navigating an Everest that had shifted with many trails destroyed, they made it home.

"We got through it," said Wahula. "My buddy John got through it and I think we're better people for it."

Wahula's daughter is getting married this weekend, making his homecoming even sweeter for his family.

He said he'll now focus on raising money to help relief workers who are currently serving in Nepal.

Even though he missed his goal of reaching Mt. Everest's base camp, Wahula said he will not be going back to try again.

More than 7,000 people were killed in the earthquake. Millions are now homeless with the quake turning much of Nepal into rubble.

Donations are desperately needed.

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