A group of British tourists have escaped with their lives after being trapped in a massive avalanche caused by the collapse of a mountain glacier in Kyrgyzstan.
Dramatic footage taken by Harry Shimmin, one of the group of nine Britons and one American on a guided tour of the Tian Shan mountains, showed snow starting to trickle down the mountainside from a nearby peak before quickly crashing down on it. and gobble up the camera lens
Surprisingly, Mr Shimmin said that despite fearing he might die as it became harder to breathe during what felt “like being inside a snowstorm”, he emerged from the melee “without a scratch”.
One girl had “cut her knee quite a bit” and rode to the nearest medical facility, while another received “some light bruises” after falling from a horse, Shimmin said in an Instagram account of the incident.
The group had just reached the highest point of the trek when the glacier began to collapse and Mr. Shimmin had separated from his companions to take pictures high on the edge of a cliff when he “heard the sound of deep ice breaking up behind of the”.
“I had already been there for a few minutes, so I knew there was a place to shelter right next to me,” he said, adding that he was “well aware that I was taking a huge risk” by not getting to safety right away. . “I felt in control, but regardless, when the snow started to fall and it got dark/difficult to breathe, I was blocking and thought I might die.”
He added: “Once it was over, the adrenaline hit me hard. It was only covered by a light layer of snow, without a scratch. I felt dizzy.”
The rest of the group were “laughing and crying” and “happy to be alive” when he was reunited with them, Shimmin said, adding: “Only later did we realize how lucky we had been. If we had walked 5 more minutes on our walk, we would all be dead.”
Shortly thereafter, following the intended route, the group walked between “huge boulders of ice and rocks that had been thrown much farther than we could have run, even if we had acted immediately,” he said.
“To make matters worse, the road runs along a low ridge, obscuring the view of the mountain, so we would only have heard the roar before the lights went out,” Shimmin added.
The Tian Shan mountain range is among the largest in the world, stretching some 2,500 kilometers across central Asia and straddling the border between Kyrgyzstan and China.
The Tian Shan mountain range, which translates to “heavenly mountains” in Chinese, bisects the historical region of Turkestan and was situated along the ancient Silk Road trade route.
At its widest point, it stretches some 300 miles across and its highest peak is Jengish Chokusu, which stands at 7,439 meters, less than 1,500 meters from Everest.
The disappearance of glaciers in Kyrgyzstan, which are a vital source of water in the summer months, has been described as an urgent problem by the United Nations, symptomatic of climate collapse.
In the space of just 50 years, the Tien Shan mountain range has lost more than a quarter of its ice mass, according to a 2015 study, with some five gigatonnes of ice disappearing each year between 1961 and 2012.