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'Oh Dear God.' See a Hiker Dodge a Terrifying Avalanche From a Collapsed Glacier

A trekker on a guided tour in Kyrgyzstan says his group was just five minutes away from certain death.

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Eric Mack
3 min read
A snow-covered Kyrgyzstan mountain range in the distance, with a green plain in the foreground

A snow-covered mountain range in Kyrgyzstan, seen from a safe distance.

Leisa Tyler/LightRocket via Getty Images

A dramatic video gone viral captures the moment that an avalanche from a collapsed glacier in Kyrgyzstan forced British hiker Harry Shimmin to duck for cover behind a boulder as the mass of snow and ice engulfs him and a group of fellow hikers. 

"When the snow started coming over and it got dark / harder to breath, I was bricking it and thought I might die," Shimmin wrote on Instagram, where you can watch the avalanche traveling downhill toward the camera. (The video is also posted on YouTube.)

Shimmin said in the post that he was in a group of nine British and one American hikers on a guided trip in the Tian Shan mountains. At one point he separated from the group to take pictures near a cliff edge. 

"I heard the sound of deep ice cracking behind me. This is where the video starts," Shimmin wrote. 

The 48-second clip shows snow and ice cascading down from a glacier on a far ridge, flowing into a wide drainage and eventually to the very point where Shimmin was filming. As the snow approaches, he can be heard getting increasingly concerned.

"Oh dear God," he says as it becomes clear the slide is going to make it all the way to his location. At the last moment he ducks into a crevice between two boulders as the icy debris overtakes him and the clip ends. 

"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."

Shimmin noted in a separate Instagram post that had they been five minutes farther along on their trek, "we would all be dead."

"The path we were suppose to take was completely covered... Massive ice boulders and rocks had been spread further than we could have run, even if we acted immediately."

Shimmin took another video less than an hour later that shows much of the snow already melted in the summer heat, but large hunks of ice remaining in the spot just beyond where he took shelter. 

Climate change has made glaciers throughout the world more unstable and unpredictable. Shimmin captured the avalanche in Kyrgyzstan on July 8, just days after a similar glacial collapse triggered an avalanche in the Dolomites section of the Alps in Italy. At least 10 hikers and climbers were killed in the incident. 

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In other sections of the world, destabilized glaciers seated high above large settlements in the Himalayas and the Andes threaten potential catastrophe for the tens of thousands living below. 

In the case of Shimmin's group, the lone American in the group had a cut serious enough that she was transported to a hospital and has since returned home to the US. Everyone else had only minor cuts and bruises. 

"I stared at the roof of my tent for longer than I care to admit that night," Shimmin added. "Very very glad everyone survived without super serious injuries."

Shimmin didn't immediately respond to a request for additional comment.