One mountain climber is feeling fortunate to have survived a terrifying fall down a crevasse on Mount Rainier in Washington State.
Graham Parrington is opening up about the Aug. 5 ordeal. He and fellow climbers Christopher Poulos and Reid Ammann, had reached the top of Ingraham Glacier around 7 a.m. and were on their way back down to their basecamp when tragedy struck.
“It happened pretty quickly. One minute I was talking to the members of my rope team and we could see camp,” Parrington tells PEOPLE. “We were very happy with ourselves for summiting the mountain. The next thing I know, I’m falling and smashing through melting layers of snow. Then I stopped and I was at the bottom of the hole. Hanging in a crevasse.”
A crevasse is a deep crack in a glacier, and Mount Rainier — which lies about three hours southeast of Seattle — is the “most heavily glaciated peak in the contiguous United States,” according to the National Park Service. The active volcano is 14,410 feet tall.
“It was really quick. I immediately knew what was happening. I was screaming and out of control. I couldn’t do anything to stop myself,” he says. “I thought that could be it. I knew that falling in a crevasse could be deadly, and I was falling in a crevasse. So I was really happy when I stopped falling and realized I was unhurt.”
Parrington said that he “happy to be alive and determined to get out.” He even had a chance to snap a selfie before making the difficult climb out of the crevasse with the help of his team.
But that doesn’t mean it was easy to be stuck down there — the climber told CNN, “It’s like being in a ice shower down there. The glacier is melting on you.”
His teammates sprang into action, they adjusted his rope so Parrington could climb out. CNN reported that another group of climbers found them and helped Parrington’s teammates adjust the rope so that he wasn’t forced to climb through rotten snow.
That was when Parrington began to start a grueling 45-minute climb up the rope to safety, he says.
Parrington explained to KOMO News that, to self-rescue, climbers actually want to avoid going hand-over-fist up the rope — “because if you make a mistake, then you fall and you shock-load the rope.”
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Instead, “you ascend the rope with friction knots or ascending devices,” he explained, saying that’s exactly what he did.
“I got my system set up, I had loops around my feet, and clipped my backpack below me on the rope to put tension on it, and started inching my way up the rope,” he continued.
Parrington said that his extensive training and practice for emergency situations just like this one was key in his survival.
“As soon as I came out … I was in shock but, really happy. I was soaking wet and pretty cold,” Parrington tells PEOPLE of the moments after the rescue. He said he suffered only a few “scrapes and bruises.
“I feel fine. The shock has mostly worn off. I’m happy to be alive and be there for my daughter, Tavia. It’s been an interesting reset,” he says.
“Having a near-death experience makes you think about what your priorities are and really appreciating the people in your life. I’m so thankful for my team members Christopher, Reid, Katie, Naomi, and Kaydee who caught my fall and helped with the rescue. Everyone had a role and we all contributed.”