Mountaineering & Expeditions

Kyrgyzstan Avalanche Footage Goes Viral

The frightening incident took place during an expedition in the Tian Shan mountains

Screenshot: Harry Shimmin (Instagram)

We’re used to seeing avalanche footage on the Mpora team. It doesn’t make them any less terrifying but there comes a point, or so we thought, where you do get slightly desensitised to clips of them uploaded to social media. That was our thinking before we watched this terrifying avalanche play out in the Tian Shan mountains of Kyrgyzstan. Now, well, we’re a little shaken up quite frankly.

What initially feels like a distant menace, the equivalent of a gunslinger walking slowly over the horizon in the wild west, rapidly descends into full-on horror movie territory when it becomes clear that the snow and ice ‘tsunami’ is going to swarm over the person holding the camera (Harry Shimmin).

You can read Harry’s full statement on the incident below but you’ll be glad to know there were no fatalities here. Stay safe out there, folks, and never underestimate the power of the mountains.

Harry Shimmin (@harryshimmin) wrote on Instagram:

9 Brits and 1 American on a guided tour of the Tian Shan mountains in Kyrgyzstan. We’d just reached the highest point in the trek and I separated from the group to take pictures on top of a hill/cliff edge. While I was taking pictures I heard the sound of deep ice cracking behind me. This is where the video starts. I’d been there for a few minutes already so I knew there was a spot for shelter right next to me. I was on a cliff edge, so I could only run away from the shelter (hence why I don’t move). Yes I left it to the last second to move, and yes I know it would have been safer moving to the shelter straight away. I’m very aware that I took a big risk. I felt in control, but regardless, when the snow started coming over and it got dark / harder to breath, I was bricking it and thought I might die.

Behind the rock it was like being inside a blizzard. Once it was over the adrenaline rush hit me hard. I was only covered in a small layer of snow, without a scratch. I felt giddy. I knew the rest of the group was further away from the avalanche so should be okay. When I re-joined them I could see they were all safe, although one had cut her knee quite badly (she rode one of the horses to the nearest medical facility). Another had fallen off a horse and sustained some light bruising.

The whole group was laughing and crying, happy to be alive (including the girl who cut her knee). It was only later we realised just how lucky we’d been. If we had walked 5 minutes further on our trek, we would all be dead. If you look carefully in the video, you can see the faint grey trail winding through the grass. That was the path. We traversed it afterwards, walking among massive ice boulders and rocks that had been thrown much further than we could have run, even if we acted immediately. To make it worse, the path runs alongside a low ridge, hiding the mountain from view, so we would have only heard the roar before lights out.


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A post shared by Harry Shimmin (@harryshimmin)

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