An Illinois State nursing alum who was hiking in Nepal when Saturday’s earthquake struck has returned safely to the U.S., and she’s urging Americans to support relief efforts.

Caitlin Bull ’12 and her small hiking team were on an 80-mile, 13-day round trip to Mount Everest Base Camp—a dream come true for this world traveler. The quake hit while the Mennonite College of Nursing grad was on a steep hill near Tengboche, Nepal, forcing her to grab a tree to brace herself.

“At first it was interesting but as it shook harder and lasted over a minute, tree branches were falling all around and we heard landslides across the valley and I felt my eyes widen in concern,” she said. “As an adrenaline seeker, I never want to seek out earthquakes. It’s a very helpless and powerless feeling.”

Bull wasn’t injured, but her Nepali guide and porter both lost their homes. The death toll from the 7.8-magnitude earthquake is at 5,800 and rising, with 600,000 homes destroyed or damaged.

Caitlin Bull

Illinois State alumna Caitlin Bull before the earthquake struck.

Bull and her friend, Ashleigh Stumler from North Carolina, saw the increasing extent of the damage as they moved toward a larger village. Once there, they had Internet access and told their families they were safe. (Stumler and her family were featured in an ABC News story about their reconnection.)

“People around the world have awful drinking water, but Wi-Fi is everywhere,” she said.

Bull and Stumler kept moving, eventually arriving in the Himalayan nation’s capital, Kathmandu. She saw huge cracks in the roads, demolished buildings, and tent cities. Bull, who works around the U.S. as a traveling emergency room nurse, volunteered at a hospital before tourists were told to go to their embassies.

Room in Nepal

The room Bull stayed in on her way up to Everest Base Camp.

“Compared to the happy bustling place I witnessed prior to my trek, the city felt like a sad ghost town with far less activity,” Bull told STATEside in an email.

Bull flew back to the U.S. and arrived in Washington State on Wednesday.

“My thoughts go to the people in Nepal who are sleeping on the cold, wet ground with limited and increasingly scarce resources,” Bull said. “These people have not hesitated to risk and give their lives for trekkers and mountaineers from our country and others. I hope that we do not hesitate to give aid now that they are in a time of desperation and need.”

Meanwhile, Illinois State graduate student Shikshya Adhikari still has family in Nepal and did research into the empowerment of women in her home country. Read more about Adhikari in The Pantagraph.

Ryan Denham can be reached at

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