His home situated on the banks of River Bhagirathi was dangerously lurking on the verge of getting washed away by the swelling river. But, Avdhesh Bhatt, a young mountaineer from Uttarkashi district, put the lives of others before self and rushed to the disaster-hit Kedarnath valley to evacuate the stranded pilgrims.
An advanced-level mountaineer and rescue expert, Bhatt was instrumental in evacuating over 250 stranded pilgrims besides also helping around 800 odd people in getting airlifted by the rescue choppers in the patch between Gauri Kund (road end to Kedarnath shrine) and Junglechatti (around six kilometers ahead of Kedarnath).
He worked as a volunteer in close association with the teams of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Indian Armed Forces and Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) in the worst-hit flood-ravaged region of Uttarakhand.
"I saw death from up close. Hundreds of dead bodies were scattered all around. But, there was no time to mourn and so we searched for those alive and began to rescue them," Bhatt told the Hindustan Times upon returning to Dehradun.
Trained at the prestigious Nehru Institute of Mountaineering (NIM), Uttarkashi, Bhatt used ropes and other rock climbing equipment to rescue and bring down the marooned pilgrims through the perilous forests, broken treks and slippery slopes.
"I took a silent pledge that I won't let anyone die till I am alive. I risked everything, including my life, but every single bit of it was worth the risk," added the 32-year-old hotel management graduate.
Notably, Bhatt was a part of the NIM Expedition to Mount Everest in 2009. He got severely injured in an avalanche accident while on his way to the peak but went on to save the lives of two foreign mountaineers for which he was awarded the Uttam Jeevan Raksha Padak, presented by the government of India for courage and promptitude in saving life under great danger to the life of the rescuer, in 2010.
Bhatt's friend Lokesh Pandey (25), an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at a Rishikesh-based institute, who accompanied him on the daredevil mission, said, "We defeated death from close quarters on many occasions. Those six days, which we spent in the hills, gave us a fresh perspective towards life."