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Mount Everest death of Matthew Jones inspires his tour guide to return for a worthy cause

Four people smiling with a Himalayan mountain range behind them
Tom Allwright (left) was leading Matthew Jones (right) and a group of trekkers in the Himalayas.

Supplied: Tom Allwright

Tom Allwright loves his job as an adventure tour guide.

But watching one of his fellow trekkers die on the way to Mount Everest Base Camp is something he says he'll never forget.

Mr Allwright recently reflected on that life-changing experience with Melanie Tait on ABC Radio Hobart.

"It's something that I never thought would happen to me," he said.

"I also associate these sorts of adventures with happy times and providing lifetime experiences, and for this to be flipped on its head, it was a bit of a shock."

A man wearing a beanie and sunglasses smiling at the camera
Tom Allwright has been to the Himalayas many times, but had never expected to have someone die in front of him.

Supplied: Tom Allwright

Mr Allwright was a guide for 16 trekkers walking from Lukla in Nepal to base camp at the foot of Everest.

One of the trekkers was Matthew Jones, a 49-year-old father of two from Melbourne whom Mr Allwright knew well after being his guide along the Kokoda trek a couple of years earlier.

"It [Everest] was something he'd been thinking about for a very long time," Mr Allwright said.

"There are certain parts of what [happened] I look back on that still hurt me, but certainly I know that he died somewhere where he was having a great time."

Horror morning on Everest

The group was at its last stop before Everest Base Camp, about 4,900 metres above sea level.

"Those last two days before base camp it can be quite difficult, the air is very thin," Mr Allwright said.

"Five thousand metres is very high considering Mount Wellington here [in Tasmania] is 1,100 metres."

It was 3:00am when Mr Allwright was alerted that Mr Jones was finding it hard to breathe and altitude medication was not helping.

An avalanche seen from Everest Base Camp
Everest Base Camp is 5,000 above sea level. Tom Allwright says it's like trying to breathe through a pillow at that altitude.

Supplied: Ben Southall

"Matthew was an extremely witty and funny person and his jokes did not stop even though he was clearly under duress," Mr Allwright said.

He called some local Sherpas for help and they started to walk Mr Jones down towards Lukla to get him lower and closer to help.

"We started trekking and I could kind of tell that his usual wit and everything like that had stopped," Mr Allwright said.

He said he decided to call for an emergency helicopter but Mr Jones's health continued to decline quickly.

"Within two minutes after that he'd started to lose the ability to speak, losing the control over his muscles and he literally fainted," Mr Allwright said.

"We sat with him doing CPR and doing everything we could for a while, we had oxygen.

Despite their best efforts, Mr Jones died before the helicopter arrived.

"It was left to me to get Matthew out of the helicopter and put him in front of the policeman and do a check over him. I had to take his clothes off," Mr Allwright said.

"I hadn't seen a dead body like this before and then all of a sudden I was moving one around."

Mr Jones was a type 1 diabetic but had been training at a special altitude gym in Melbourne and checked with doctors before attempting the Everest trek.

"He ticked all the right boxes ... there was nothing else he could have done," Mr Allwright said.

"I know that nothing could have changed in Nepal, no-one did anything wrong."

Life after death and returning to Everest

Returning to Australia and back to normal life was difficult at first for Mr Allwright.

Mount Everest
Tom Allwright will return to the Himalayas next year to raise money for Diabetes Australia.

Supplied: Ben Southall

"When everyone goes back to their everyday lives, I was kind of left with this feeling of, 'Wow, this crazy thing has just happened in my life'," he said.

"Sometimes you just want people to sit down and say: 'Are you OK?'"

To honour Mr Jones, Mr Allwright is returning to Everest to do the trek again, but this time to raise funds for Diabetes Australia.

"We're going to be raising a significant amount of funds towards the treatment for type 1 diabetes but also hopefully towards a cure," he said.

Information on the fundraiser trek can be found at trekformatt.com.