Nick Cienski couldn’t believe his eyes. “It was huge, this huge wave of snow,” he says of the avalanche that engulfed climbers in ice and rock on Mount Everest on Saturday. Cienski survived – many others weren’t so lucky.
The Under Armour executive and CEO of nonprofit Mission 14 was on Everest with his team when the 7.9 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal. The resulting avalanche killed 18 people on the mountain and left dozens stranded and injured.
“When you looked up and saw this thing coming at you, it was like out of a Hollywood movie,” Cienski told ABC News in an interview from base camp. “We just hunkered into our tents and started praying and lived through it.”
Cienski’s camp was situated at the edge of the avalanche, likely the reason he survived. “We got hit by just the edge of it,” he said. “We were the lucky ones.”
“It wasn’t until we saw the avalanche heading towards us that you quickly started to compute what was happening. The next two minutes were completely terrifying.”
As soon as they realized they were both unharmed, Cienski and his wife started looking for survivors. Reuters reports that he had a hand in recovering 12 of at least 17 of the victims’ bodies.
“We are still sorting through a lot of emotions; 24 hours ago we were wrapping people’s body parts in bags,” Cienski told Reuters, speaking over the noise of rescue helicopters evacuating injured climbers.
Cienski’s team was climbing Everest as the first part of the 6 Summits Challenge, an attempt to summit six of the globe’s tallest mountains in one year to raise awareness of human trafficking.
Will he and his team continue the challenge? “I wouldn’t want to continue if it made anybody uncomfortable to continue – sherpas included in that,” he said.