KATHMANDU (AFP) - A young Nepalese guide who survived the deadliest mountaineering accident ever on Mount Everest recalled on Friday being "trapped" after the avalanche came crashing down the icy slopes, killing at least 12 of his companions.
The force of the avalanche fractured 22-year-old Dawa Tashi Sherpa's ribs and broke his shoulder blades, leaving him buried in neck-deep snow - but he was fortunate to survive.
"I don't know how I survived," said 22-year-old Mr Sherpa, who was airlifted to Kathmandu's Grande International Hospital after being rescued.
"I am the luckiest man alive," he told AFP from his hospital bed, while his wife - five months pregnant with their first child - waited to see him.
Mr Sherpa was among a large party of Sherpas carrying tents, food and ropes who headed out for an early morning expedition ahead of the main climbing season starting later this month.
Mr Sherpa said he left the base camp of the 8,848m peak at around 3am local time, armed with equipment to help fix ropes for commercial climbers.
As he scaled the mountain slopes in the dark, climbing ladders and walking on ice, dozens of guides kept him company, with several ahead of him and some others behind lugging up their gear.
The avalanche struck soon after daybreak at an altitude of about 5,800m - in an area nicknamed the "popcorn field" due to boulders of ice that lie on the route leading into the treacherous Khumbu icefall.
"It came out of nowhere, this huge block of ice that fell from above, flying right at us," Mr Sherpa said.
"I wanted to run but there was no time, we were just trapped."
Despite being hit by the full force of the avalanche, he said he managed to breathe and was conscious, though suffering from hypothermia.
He was eventually found by rescuers and airlifted to Kathmandu.
His doctor, orthopaedic surgeon Chakra Raj Pandey, said he expected Mr Sherpa to make a full recovery soon.
"He has suffered multiple wounds, but he is stable," Dr Pandey told AFP, expressing optimism that his fractures would heal in around six weeks.