NORTH CONWAY, NH (FOX 25 / MyFoxBoston.com) A hiker and filmmaker spoke with FOX 25 on Friday night to recount the moment his friends became lost in an avalanche.
Miraculously, the 12-member team survived the avalanche in New Hampshire's Mount Washington Valley on Thursday night.
The group has a wealth of experience in climbing and mountaineering. They have ventured out many times before in an effort to raise money for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation for retired Sgt. Keith Zeier. Sgt. Zeier served in Iraq and lost four friends there. He lost his leg while serving overseas, but is still a climber for charity.
Thursday's climb was part of the documentary "Ascents of Honor."
"We had some conversations with forest rangers in the morning and they alerted us to some of their concerns about conditions on the mountain at the time," says Thom Pollard.
Pollard and his team spoke to the rangers at about 8 a.m., but the conditions worsened by 4:30 p.m.
"Snow fall and wind and snow accumulated at the top of the slope and that's where the avalanche occurred," Pollard recalls.
Eight hours into the climb, with only 100 feet remaining, the avalanche began.
"I turned and yelled 'avalanche' and instead of watching what was happening I realized I just needed to brace," says Pollard.
Pollard is the "Ascents of Honor" filmmaker. He had just passed Zeier and his team to prepare for the final shot of the climb when he was pushed between 30 and 50 feet down the mountain. The retired Marine and his team were pushed between 800 and 1000 feet.
The filmmaker says Zeier and his team were so far away that he couldn't see them and he began to fear for the worst.
Zeier and his rope team had already been rescued by the time Pollard made the six-hour trek down the mountain. Everyone survived. Though they have tackled gripping situations before, they see this ordeal as yet another lesson.
"You make a reading, you make a guess," Pollard explains. "You make decisions and sometimes those decisions aren't correct."
Zeier and the others who were injured are doing well and are in good spirits. Pollard says the goal is to get everyone healthy again and then get back to climbing. Their ultimate goal is to help Sgt. Zeier raise $1 million for charity.