Buried Alive Under Avalanche – True Story

We all have minor accidents in wintery weather,
like slipping and falling on ice. It’s usually annoying, but it’s nothing
compared to narrowly escaping a deadly avalanche…just to be thrown off a cliff by a second one a
few hours later. That’s the unbelievable true story of Ken
Jones, a British hiker who was hiking in the Transylvanian Alps and had to deal with one
of nature’s fastest, deadliest disasters – twice! Jones’ solo climbing trip turned into a
nightmare most people can’t even imagine. Freezing in the mountain cold, buried under
snow with broken bones, and worst of all, entirely alone, Jones found himself facing
incredibly unfavorable odds for survival. So, what did he do …? Ken Jones was a 26-year-old student at Manchester
University majoring in political science. He had an adventurous nature, perhaps arising
from his time spent in the UK military. When he decided to venture out to Romania
and hike Mount Moldoveanu in Transylvania’s Carpathian Mountains on his own, it wasn’t
an unusual feat for him. At 8,200 feet (2,500 meters) high, Mount Moldoveanu
is the highest peak in Romania. Jones arrived in Romania around New Year’s
Day and started the climb one cold morning in January of 2003. Though Moldoveanu Peak has hiking trails full
of climbers during the summer, in the winter it is mostly deserted due to the deep snow,
cold and generally harsh conditions. However, since Jones was missing his army
days, he wanted to undertake this solitary hiking challenge to recapture that sense of
adventure. He figured his experience of four years as
a Paratrooper and two years as a Special Forces soldier would help support him during his
climb. The first few hours on the mountain went smoothly. Jones climbed up higher and higher at a good
pace, until a change in weather, decrease in visibility, and a layer of deeper snow
high up on the mountain slowed him down. As he was nearing the summit, a heavy snowfall
started, and the sky became opaque. Jones decided conditions were too poor to
continue, so he would go back down and attempt to summit the next day. A slight tremor he had felt in the ground
below him combined with an unusual noise increased his unease, and further urged him to climb
back down. As Jones was descending a few minutes later,
he heard the same strange noise again – but louder this time. Now, it was unmistakable, a noise Jones was
familiar with thanks to military training in mountains and wintery conditions. It was the sound of the recent snowfall stressing
the solid snowpack underneath, creating dangerous conditions. Suddenly, he stopped dead in his tracks. The sound rang out a third time very close
to his position – this time, it sounded like the entire mountain was creaking under
its weight. Fearful of what he suspected was about to
happen, Jones dropped down on the ground and tobogganed down the mountain on his back. As he neared the forest, he stood up to find
cover and heard what he had feared the most: the loud crack that signals the start of an
avalanche, like a whip crack magnified by 100. With few good paths of escape, Jones ran through
the forest, adrenaline surging through his veins. He hoped a large clump of trees would divert
the snow and protect him from the worst of the incoming avalanche. Refusing to look back, Jones could hear the
quickening speed of the mass of snow hurtling towards him. It sounded like an entire airport full of
planes taking off at once, combined with the constant machine-gun-like snapping of tree
branches being broken off in the avalanche’s path. The air filled with snow shooting in all directions,
the powder on the ground shot up, clouding Jones’ vision, and he knew he was in the
thick of it. Suddenly, the ear-piercing rumble of the snow
continued down the hill in front of him. Miraculously, Jones was standing firmly against
a tree for protection, still alive, well, and most definitely not buried under a Transylvanian
avalanche. The brunt of the avalanche had missed him,
and the trees had provided adequate protection from the full force of the disaster. Since avalanches have been known to tear out
entire swaths of forest from their roots, and even demolish entire towns, Jones’ survival
in the forest was far from guaranteed. His escape was nothing short of extraordinary. An immense wave of relief swept over him. He had narrowly avoided what could have been
a deadly disaster. Jones resumed his climb down the mountain,
looking forward to a night in his sleeping bag and an early summit tomorrow. A few minutes later, Jones stopped again. What he was hearing couldn’t possibly be
happening. But horrifyingly, there it was: a large crack
echoing around the slopes, and the same Boeing engine-like rumble starting to come down the
mountain. Let’s leave Jones in his truly unenviable
position for a moment to look at what causes avalanches, and exactly how enormous they
can be. Avalanches can be caused by changing weather
conditions such as a recent storm or snowfall stressing a snowpack on a slope, or by human
triggers such as snowmobiles, skiers, and explosives that destabilize the snowpack. When an avalanche picks up speed, it can reach
80 to 100 mph while booming down a slope, too fast for even the fastest animal in the
world – a cheetah that tops out at 75 mph – to outrun. Though we don’t know the exact size of the
avalanche hurtling towards Jones, it’s safe to say that it was a medium to large size
avalanche from his description of the snow. Medium avalanches can range from 165 to 655
feet (50 to 200 meters) and have a volume up to 220,000 gallons (around 1000 cubic meters). Large avalanches can range up to 2,000 to
3,000 feet (610 – 915 meters), and have a volume of up to 2.2 million gallons (10,000
cubic meters), or about the size of four full Olympic size swimming pools of snow. Being buried under that would almost certainly
be fatal. Now back to Jones, who was having the worst
case of déjà vu imaginable. Completely exposed this time, Jones ran down
the hill, knowing the avalanche was moving too fast for him to escape. The snow caught up with him, whiting out everything
around him once again. This time, he wouldn’t be as lucky as before. The avalanche picked him off his feet and
rolled him uncontrollably down the slope. Suddenly, Jones could no longer feel the ground. The avalanche had thrown him straight off
a cliff, and Jones plunged around 75 feet (23 meters), or around 7.5 stories to the
valley below. The avalanche rolled him further down until
it smashed him against some trees and rocks. To understand the horrible predicament Jones
was in: the general survival rates for avalanche victims depends a lot on the time of rescue. If an avalanche victim is found within the
first 18 minutes, the chances of them surviving are more than 91%. So far, so good right? Those odds don’t sound too bad. Here’s the problem: if the victim is removed
from under the avalanche within 19 to 35 minutes, the chances of them surviving plummet to 34%. After 35 minutes trapped in freezing snow
without rescue, the picture starts to look really bleak, really fast. Jones was alone. No one knew his exact location or that anything
had happened to him. He had no method of communication. Worst of all, he would quickly realize that
his leg was broken at the femur and his pelvis was shattered. The nearest town was 10 miles away. At this point, let’s just say his odds of
survival that day were about the same as him winning the lottery. When he regained consciousness, Jones tried
to stand. His left leg immediately gave way under him,
and indescribable pain shot through his entire body. Jones knew he now only had three limbs to
work with, and few supplies. His sleeping bag, poncho, rations, dry kit,
first aid kit and flask were gone. He was left with a Leatherman tool, compass,
two bags of crumbed up food – sausage rolls and cakes – and a length of parachute cord
– a light nylon rope used as a general utility cord. He got one small stroke of luck; looking around
in the darkness, he was relieved to see the glow from his head torch uphill. Painfully and slowly, he dragged his body
up the slope to retrieve it, finding his hat along the way. As he descended again, he also located his
canoe sack – a bag for keeping items dry – with a pair of dry socks and a plastic
liter-size water bottle within it. By now it was nighttime. Feeling his feet dangerously swollen, Jones
removed his boots, and placed his legs inside the canoe sack for protection against the
cold, retreating his arms and head into his upper layers like a tortoise so they could
be protected. He fought sleep off almost the whole night,
knowing that giving in could cause him to enter a hypothermic state. At the first light of dawn, Jones started
making his way down the mountain. He knew there was a stream down in the valley,
and if he reached it, he could fill his water bottle and follow the stream back to civilization. Jones crawled from dawn until dusk, repeating
the military commands and sayings he remembered from his training days to keep him motivated
when he felt weak. Though he crawled all day, his progress was
slow, and he realized he would have to spend a second night out in the cold, exposed and
alone. During the night, thoughts of his faraway
friends and family flashed through his head. He thought of their comfort and ignorance
of his predicament and wondered if he would see them again. Miraculously, he made it through another freezing,
wintery night outdoors. The second day, after more hours of painful
crawling on three limbs, which was tearing up his hands and body, Jones reached the stream. He drank and refilled his water bottle, then
continued crawling along the banks of the stream toward the nearest vehicle track he
could remember encountering on his way to the mountain. Several times, he found his way completely
blocked. Each time, he had to strip off his upper layers,
throw them across the stream to keep them dry, and either hop or swim his way across
the freezing water. Then he would crawl further down and find
his new path blocked by cliffs, forcing him to repeat this excruciating and freezing process. The third night, Jones was sure it was his
last. The symptoms of hypothermia – confusion,
drowsiness, shallow breathing, a weak pulse and fumbling hands – had completely set in,
and he had lost all feeling in his right foot. A heavy snowfall had also started during the
night. Though it seemed like bad luck at the time,
it may have actually saved Jones’ life. He awoke in a cocoon of snow, which had helped
keep his body temperature a few degrees warmer at night than it would have been, like an
igloo. To this day, he believes this prevented him
from completely succumbing to hypothermia that night. As Jones continued his descent the next day,
the route bottlenecked, meaning Jones had to get into the freezing cold water one last
time. Hungry, exhausted, shivering, and feeling
utterly defeated, he swam on for what seemed like ages but again reached an impasse. By that point, he had been in the water for
almost three hours and covered just under 330 feet (100 meters) thanks to his dead leg
and weakened condition. He knew that if he spent much more time wet
and cold he would be dead. Jones managed to slowly and painfully climb
out of the water, but in the process, lost his right boot. As Jones continued his descent, he started
hallucinating, convinced he was seeing food. Specifically, an iced pink Victoria sandwich,
a specialty of his mother’s. As the hallucinations intensified and started
to include cartoons from his childhood and other sightings, Jones decided to keep his
head down, looking straight at the ground, in hopes the hallucinations would go away. Finally, he looked up and breathed a sigh
of relief – he had reached the vehicle track! But there was still a lot more ground he needed
to cover. Jones found a sturdy stick and used it as
a makeshift crutch to cover more ground, with a renewed enthusiasm now that he had reached
signs of human life. He was still a few miles away from the town
of Fagaras, and certainly some distance away from reaching the first person on the outskirts
of the village. After about 1.9 miles (3 kilometers), Jones
glanced up and saw a house. For a moment, he couldn’t believe what he
was seeing. For four days and three nights he had crawled
down the frozen mountain in a desperate search for help without encountering a single human
being. Even a sighting of Dracula’s castle would
have been welcome. Suddenly, there was an actual house. And a man inside the house watching TV. He knocked on the door, realizing his mangled
appearance might scare the house’s occupants. An old man answered, with a younger, larger
man not far behind him. Though at first, they were apprehensive, once
they realized Jones’ weakened state, the younger man carried him in and offered him
a drink, food, and a change of clothes. The men also fetched a boy from the village
named Bogdan, who spoke some English, to help translate. At this point, Jones was starting to feel
weak. After Bogdan’s arrival, on the verge of
passing out, he faintly asked for an ambulance. After stopping at two smaller, regional hospitals
that didn’t have the equipment to even attempt to treat him, Jones had to ride over three
hours to a city hospital in Brasov, where he was admitted. However, as many people say, bad luck comes
in threes. After surviving two avalanches and miraculously
making it to a hospital, you would think Jones’ ordeal would be over. However, the 26-year-old Brit wasn’t in
the clear just yet. Jones was hungry, frostbitten and emaciated. His ordeal had left him quite a bit worse
for wear, but he hoped that in the hospital he would make a speedy recovery. Then a few days in, something changed. Jones started deteriorating rapidly. The stress of his torturous ordeal had wreaked
havoc on his internal organs, and most importantly in his stomach. After several days of unbelievable stress
on the mountain, hyperactive acid levels in Jones’ stomach had perforated his stomach
lining, spilling out acids and other toxins throughout his body. Jones went into shock and doctors thought
he would die. He even remembers seeing a member of his medical
team apologizing to his mother for not being able to save him right before he blacked out
completely. But the ex-military hiker had one more trick
up his sleeve. After doctors removed two thirds of his stomach
and his duodenum, not only did he make a full recovery, becoming stable enough to return
to the UK after three weeks in Romania; after months of intensive physical therapy and the
help of a top hip surgeon, the man who doctors said would never walk again got up to walk
almost two years later. Today, Jones leads a very active lifestyle,
training intensely as a cyclist. His experience of survival on the mountain
is still something he carries with him, and Jones said it has opened him up and given
him a new perspective. That cold January in Romania, Ken Jones was
hit with two waves of bad luck in the form of massive, deadly avalanches. However, his incredible survival has become
an inspirational story of what people can achieve when faced with the impossible, and
a testament to the unbelievable endurance of the human mind and body. Now we have a challenge for you, though it’s
going to be a bit easier than what Ken Jones’ had to go through, and that’s choosing which
video to watch next! We’ve got another great survival video over
here or if you’re ready for something different pick the video over here instead!

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