PHOTOS: Gladstone man's trek turned to danger
IT WAS Steve and Cherie Askew's first trip overseas together.
They never imagined it would end with Steve caught in the middle of the devastation of a 7.9 magnitude earthquake.
The Rio Tinto Yarwun employee and South Gladstone Rotary Club member was climbing Mt Everest when the earthquake struck Nepal.
Cherie had left him just days earlier to return to work in Gladstone.
She said it took four hours to get in contact with her husband, and when she finally heard he was OK it was only though Facebook.
"I call it Steve's midlife crisis - we travelled to three continents and the Everest trek was meant to be the second last challenge before a trail-bike ride," Cherie said.
She was heading back to work early, while Steve landed in Lukla, Nepal, to start his Mt Everest climb on April 23.
On his Facebook page that day, he wrote: "Great start to Mt Everest in full picture, thankfully these guys landed us safely to a beautiful part of the world. Big day tomorrow though."
But then a 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck the area.
"I hadn't seen the news so when (a girlfriend called and) asked if Steve was okay, I said 'yeah as far as I know, why'," she said.
"It took me four hours to get in contact with him," Cherie said.
"Then he messaged me: 'FYI I'm okay'."
It was a huge relief.
The day of the earthquake, again on Facebook, Steve wrote: "We are planning to try and head back to Lukla tomorrow, slowly as ground is unstable and aftershocks are continuing. Airports are closed, so we will assess whether we walk out of Lukla or not once we get there. Lots of devastation and loss of life as you can imagine. My heartfelt thanks for your concerns and your support for Cherie and my family at this time. I will be home as soon as I can."
Cherie said her husband of seven years sounded "dreadful" on the phone.
"He told me they had to climb around the landslide and the images became more devastating as they came down," she said.
"When he got to the hotel he saw a helicopter parked next to dozens of dead bodies laid out under sheets.
"He sounds dreadful."
When we spoke to Cherie yesterday afternoon, she said she understood Steve had landed safely in Kathmandu and had just managed to get a ticket on the next available plane. He was working on getting home, she said.
More than 3600 people are reported to have died in the quake and that number is still rising.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says so far 830 Australians have been confirmed safe, but there are reports around 350 Australians are still unaccounted for.