A Charlotte couple breathed a huge sigh of relief upon learning that their 27-year-old daughter – who was hiking down Mount Everest Saturday – had survived the massive earthquake that ripped across Nepal over the weekend, killing more than 2,400 people.
Greg and Beverly Stumler exhaled again when Ashleigh Stumler reported on Sunday that she wasn’t hurt by Sunday’s worst aftershock, which registered magnitude 6.7 and could be felt on the mountainside.
But they won’t be able to completely relax until she is back in North Carolina. “Till she gets home, she’s not safe in my mind,” Greg Stumler said Sunday afternoon.
Ashleigh Stumler, a 2006 South Mecklenburg High School grad, had been planning this trip for six months. She left Charlotte on April 11 by herself and linked up in Nepal with the private tour group Ace the Himalaya, which helped her reach Everest’s 17,598-foot South Base Camp late last week.
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She celebrated her 27th birthday on Friday. On Saturday – after her group had departed the base camp to head back down – the magnitude 7.8 earthquake triggered an avalanche that buried part of the camp and killed 18 people there. (Climber David Hamilton told British newspaper The Guardian: “It looked (like) somebody had put a bomb in the middle of it.”)
As of Sunday night, Greg Stumler said, Ashleigh was in the town of Lukla (elevation 9,383 feet) and hoping to get on a plane that would take her back to Kathmandu Monday.
Ashleigh Stumler told ABC News via email that when the original earthquake hit on Saturday, she held onto a tree “while the earth around us was violently shaking.” But Greg Stumler said his daughter told him Sunday’s aftershock was an even bigger wake-up call.
“She (told me), ‘My survival instincts kicked in, and we hiked so fast,’” he said, “so I think she’s now realizing this danger has not ended; it’s still going on.”
Stumler said his daughter – a 2010 graduate of Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk who works in client services at Grainger Industrial Supply in Charlotte – previously has traveled to New Zealand and has hiked the North Carolina mountains and the Grand Canyon by herself.
Ashleigh Stumler originally was supposed to depart Kathmandu to return to the U.S. on Wednesday, her father said. But she may be sticking around longer, not just because she has to, but because she wants to.
“I’m trying to direct her to the embassy, because I want her out of there,” Greg Stumler said. But the “first thing out of her mouth – I knew it was gonna happen – was, ‘I want get to Katmandu so I can help people.’”
And on Saturday night, even as she continued to make her way down the world’s tallest mountain, even as aftershocks loomed, Ashleigh Stumler was thinking of others first.
“Please consider donating to aid in the relief efforts following this massive earthquake in Nepal,” she posted on Facebook. “Since I have been here I have been blown away by the spirit, strength, and hospitality of the people. It breaks my heart to see so much death and destruction. Let’s band together and provide the help this impoverished nation needs!”