Home > Mountain

Everest: Toronto’s Europe Bound Owner Says “I am done” After Second Attempt

Europe Bound owner, Joe Raftis, is a Toronto-based adventurer who’s been attempting to climb the seven summits.

For the last two years, Raftis has spent his springs traveling to Mount Everest to become one of the hundreds who stand on top. In 2014, Raftis made his first trip to Everest in hopes of summiting, but his trip ended after an avalanche killed 16 Sherpa on the Khumbu Icefall. In April 2015, Raftis returned to Chomolungma. On March 1, Raftis wrote the following on his blog.

“Four weeks tomorrow, I leave for Kathmandu, Nepal for two months to this time conquer Everest. They are making the Khumbu Icefield a little safer this year by moving it closer to the centre to lessen the effects if there was to be an avalanche.

“There is also talk that there will be less climbers this year so hopefully no big line ups on summit day. I will have two Sherpas and a guide to accompany me to the top of the world. Namaste.”

At the time, he could never have imagined that less than two months later he’d witness the most tragic avalanche in Everest’s history. The snow slide was a result of an earthquake in Nepal that claimed over 7,000 lives. On Everest, nearly 20 bodies have been recovered.

Canadian Couple Killed in Langtang Valley

Raftis spent some time at camp one and had climbed to camp two, but returned to basecamp on April 24. “We spent the night at camp one and the next morning we trekked up to camp two – extremely exhausting the last hour or so because of the thinner air,” said Raftis. “We stopped at camp two for a quick tea and back to camp one. We had some soup in our tent and then was offered white rice – no thanks, I lost my appetite at the acclimatizing and too tired to eat. The next morning we set out around 8:30 to basecamp.”

The following morning, the earthquake sent avalanches down around Raftis who phoned his wife, Shelly, in Toronto. It was 3 a.m. in Ontario when she picked up the phone. Raftis was scarred and asked his wife to turn on the television and see if there was something on the news about what might be causing the avalanches. But, the connection between Raftis and his wife was lost.

“We arrived in Lukla today around 4 p.m. after a 20-hour trek out of basecamp over two days,” said Raftis. “On our way out of basecamp, we witnessed more destruction than I would have imagined – gear spread out every where. Tents flattened and bodies wrapped in tarps ready to be helicoptered out – injured first. We were truly the lucky ones to get through this act of nature.

“When I tried to out run the Avalanche – what was I thinking – when you only have about two to three seconds to decide. I ran as far a I could maybe 20 yards before I put my back to it and hoped for the best. I was covered in snow, but unscathed. The camp just beside us did not fair as well with injury and death. Basecamp is very long about two kilometres and I don’t think anybody was spared the brunt force of the Avalanche.

“Hours after and the next day there were more avalanches and rock slides which vibrated through the ground and put us all on edge. We decided to leave on the second day after the Avalanche. Everything was unstable for a successful Everest climb this year. The Nepal government is trying to decide if it should close the mountain for the next 3 years. I think it is a good idea. I have been here for the last two seasons and I am done.”

In April 2013, Raftis ran the Boston marathon and had finished less than an hour before a bomb exploded that killed three people and injured 264 others.

Raftis is expected to be back in Toronto within the next few days.

Joe Raftis during an acclimatization trek before reaching basecamp in April 2015.  Photo
Joe Raftis during an acclimatization trek before reaching basecamp in April 2015. Photo

Source: CBC, Joe Raftis’ blog, Europe Bound