Montreal neurosurgeon back home after close call on Mount Everest

Dr. Alain Bouthillier in the CJAD studios.
Dan Spector/CJAD

A neurosurgeon working out of the CHUM in Montreal says he's lucky to be alive after an expedition to climb Mount Everest last month.

On April 18, 16 Sherpa guides died in an avalanche — the deadliest single-day episode in the history of the world's highest peak.

Alain Bouthillier says he was at base camp, not far from where the avalanche happened at around 6:30 a.m.

He says he was supposed to be in the area where the avalanche hit, but his schedule had been delayed 24 hours.

"I was there three days before, also," he told CJAD's Aaron Rand. "It could have been me."

Bouthillier says he was climbing to raise money for research into epilepsy, and that he prefers this kind of fundraising trip to just holding a charity ball or barbecue or some other kind of fundraising event.

"I think a lot of things are boring, and me in life I need exciting ways of doing things," Bouthillier says, adding this was part of the reason he became a brain surgeon to begin with. "I like the challenge. I like the excitation of this kind of challenge."

Dr. Bouthillier has climbed mountains around the world, but he suggests he'll do a little thinking before going back to Everest.

"I saw all the 13 bodies coming back, suspended on a rope, by the helicopters," he says. "I want to see if the situation changes...the Sherpas are negotiating with the government [of Nepal]. They want better life insurance, they want better health insurance. And your life is depending on the Sherpas when you're on Mount Everest."

A week after the tragedy, dozens of Sherpa guides folded up their tents at base camp and refused to work, throwing the rest of the Everest climbing season into doubt.

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