Danny Guard is the first and only Nelsonian to summit Everest, but after a devastating earthquake put an end to his first attempt, he went back again. Sara Hollyman catches up with him at Burger Culture to find out what it’s like to make that decision.
“I was in awe of people who had been to Everest. I was envious. So, when my wife told me I could do it, but it had to be before I was 50, I knew it had to be soon. I was 49.
We left Kathmandu on April 1, 2015, I was just happy to be there and to have a crack.
After training at Base Camp we set off for Camp 1 on April 24. We left at 4.30am to get through the Khumbu Icefall before the sun came up. The previous year 16 people died there.
We got there and it was like ‘yes, we’re finally on the mountain’.
The next day at 11.56am we just started really moving, I thought it was an avalanche. We realised it was an earthquake, I looked out the tent flap and there were big crevasses opening up around us.
A few minutes after it stopped, we heard this tremendous roar. We couldn’t see because there was low cloud, but Guy Cotter yelled ‘avalanche!’ I saw him dive into his tent and thought ‘I’m doing what he’s doing’.
Later on, I asked him why he dove into the tent and he told me it makes it easier to find your body later.
We had no idea how bad it was, we started trying to reach Base Camp to let them know we were all safe but couldn’t get hold of them at all.
Finally, we got hold of our camp manager, she said, ‘Base Camp’s been obliterated I’ll get back to you’, she never did.
We slowly got more information over the radio. We knew there were casualties.
We knew we wouldn’t be able to get down the icefall so went on half rations because we had no idea how long we were going to be there.
The next day the guides decided to start trying to make a new route down while people from Base Camp were trying to make their way up to us, but then at midday there was another big aftershock.
People started screaming on the radios ‘get us out of here’, people panicked.
That’s when we knew the only way out was choppers which unbeknown to us, were busy flying all the injured and dead out of Base Camp.
The next day a chopper took us back to Base Camp. I found out that five of our Adventure Consultants team had died, eight were injured. Later on, another died.
It was all surreal, there was a disconnect, you weren’t injured, you’re alive.
On the trek out I already knew I was going to go back and try again. I reckon that was my way of coping. I put all my energy into focussing on how I was going to get back.
I continued training, raised money and did.
Going up the wind was blowing us over and we were nearly turned around, but it cleared.
I summited around 7am on May 19, 2016.
It was more of a relief than anything, no tears or emotion, just relief.
I got my camera out thinking I’d take a little movie, and it was frozen solid, so the only shots I have is from other people.
I’m really happy and glad I went back but it was more a relief that I did it.