While most of us like to play it safe, there are many people out there who practically live for adventure. The more risky the experience, the better! Unfortunately, though, that daredevil spirit often comes with a price if you’re not too careful.
Dr. John All wasn’t just a thrill-seeker. A professor and a scientist, John used his expeditions into perilous and remote areas to conduct important research on the environment and the effects of climate change.
But when something horrifying happened during an expedition up a mountain close to Everest in Nepal in 2014, he suddenly found himself in a fight for survival. What he did throughout this struggle, though, was incredible.
Dr. John All was a highly experienced mountaineer. Not only did he have plenty of expertise scaling tall peaks, but he was especially passionate about exploring and climbing through remote locales. He was also an author, and he often wrote about his adventures.
Widely respected in the academic and professional world, John worked at Western Kentucky University as a professor and a geoscientist. He also co-founded the American Climber Science Program, which focused on the conservation, research, and exploration of mountainous regions.
John also shared his findings through keynote and motivational speeches. Major publications referred to him for his vast knowledge about climate change, and NPR even dubbed him a “badass for science.” Yet even this “badass” couldn’t have prepared for what was about to happen to him…
John took his expeditions and exploration seriously. After all, he didn’t just scale mountains—he moved them. His work focused on how global climate change affected the environments and communities in mountainous regions all around the world, and he hoped his research and field work would help his fellow scientists fight the negative effects of a warming planet.
At least, that was what John planned to investigate during one particular expedition to Nepal in 2014. He had climbed hundreds of peaks in the past, and compared to his previous trek up Mount Everest in 2010, this new trip should have been a cakewalk.
John and his team were now on a mission to collect samples of the Himalayan snow and ice. They hoped to investigate the rate of glacial melting as well as the area’s pollution levels. Initially, they planned to climb the southern summit of Mount Everest in order to acquire these samples, but a disaster rendered that impossible…
An avalanche had hit the path that the team originally planned to follow on Mount Everest; sadly, the disaster killed 16 sherpas, including one who was going to be a part of John’s group. Despite the tragedy, the team was devoted to their mission, and they soldiered ahead.
They set their sights on the nearby Mount Himlung, which had a similar geography and would allow them to capture the same kind of data as Everest. While it didn’t boast the exalted reputation of its Himalayan neighbor, Himlung was still a formidable—and dangerous—peak at a whopping 23,379 feet. (For comparison, Mount Everest is 29,029 feet.) Unfortunately, they had no way of knowing the full extent of the danger that was waiting for them there…
On May 19, 2014, just seconds after John snapped this stunning photograph of some ice formations during his expedition on Mount Himlung, the ground below his feet seemingly disappeared—and he plummeted 70 feet into an icy crevasse below. John hadn’t noticed the drop at first because the opening had been camouflaged by fresh snowfall.
Drjohnpal / YouTube
John bounced from side to side between the walls of the crevasse. Though he was severely injured—he shattered 15 bones in all—the way he fell ended up saving his life. He actually managed to balance himself on an icy ridge along one of the sides in order to break the fall. The crevasse was actually 300 feet deep, and he surely couldn’t have survived had he fallen straight through.
John spent about 10 minutes in agonizing pain on the ledge, before he miraculously managed to get to his feet. His right arm was broken and his ribs were shattered, but he had no choice but to make his way out of the crevasse. It was his best chance at survival, even though one wrong move could’ve been his last.
In addition to his broken bones, John was covered in blood and bruises. His body was in terrible shape, but if he stayed put with the hopes of awaiting rescue, he could’ve frozen to death or slipped off the ridge. He had to find a way out before he became even more exhausted.
So the man called upon his years of mountaineering experience and plotted his escape. Thankfully, he’d managed to hang on to his ice pick. Even though he was right-handed, he was forced to use his left arm to slowly climb up the wall of icy. Amazingly, he captured his challenging ordeal on video. A whopping six hours of meticulous climbing later, he finally reached the top…
“My body was shattered and I was in agony,” he said in an interview. “My face hit one wall, my back and stomach hit the back wall and I bounced between them. My face was pretty torn up. I landed on a piece of ice at a midpoint. I could have fallen another 100 meters [330 feet] and it’s amazing I didn’t. The entire time climbing out I knew if I slipped I would have been dead.”
Once he pulled himself out of the crevasse, however, he was far from safety; he still had to make the three-hour trek back to his camp. Thankfully, his portable satellite device wasn’t damaged in the fall, so he used it to alert the American Climber Science Program’s Facebook page. It was his best chance to capture the attention of anyone who might be able to rescue him.
Luckily, the message went through and it caught the eye of many people who rushed to help. Unfortunately, rough weather prevented a rescue helicopter from being dispatched right away. Despite the fact that his injuries could have been fatal, John had no choice but to stay in his tent and wait for help to arrive.
He was basically helpless as he fought through the immense pain, but he kept people updated on Facebook using his satellite communicator. “Bleeding inside feels better but so cold,” he wrote. “Pain meds running low. Longest night ever.”
Despite the fact that he was in so much pain and freezing, John managed to survive the night. The next day, he was discovered by rescuers, who landed their helicopter 20,000 feet up the mountain. It took two members of the rescue team to carry the six-foot-five tall, 240-pound man—but they somehow got him to an intensive-care unit in a hospital in nearby Kathmandu.
Amazingly, John recovered. He said that thoughts of his mother and his friends helped him push through. “Your survival instinct kicks in and that’s why I filmed the video,” he later recalled when asked about his experience. “I couldn’t allow myself any doubt.”
Despite being at death’s door, John’s terrifying, near-death experience didn’t stop him from carrying out other expeditions. Just that same year, for example, he traveled to Peru. He clearly loves his work, and he cares too much about science to ever give up!
It’s amazing that John not only survived and recovered from his injuries, but that he found the courage to continue exploring dangerous terrain in spite of what happened to him. Hopefully he’ll stay safe from here on out!
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