9 climbers killed in Nepal snow storm
kathmandu — Nine members of a South Korean climbing expedition were killed after a violent snowstorm swept them off a cliff on Nepal’s Mount Gurja, one of the deadliest mountaineering accidents to hit the Himalayan nation in recent years.
The bodies of eight climbers — four South Koreans and four Nepali guides — were spotted near the wreckage of their camp by a rescue team on Saturday morning, but strong winds were hampering the search effort.
A fifth South Korean climber was initially reported missing, but officials have now confirmed that he was at the camp when the deadly storm hit on Friday and is believed to have also perished.
“A mountain expedition of five South Korean nationals and four foreigners were swept off by strong winds at the base camp during their climb to Mount Gurja. (They) fell off a cliff and died,” the South Korean foreign ministry said in a statement. Helicopter pilot Siddartha Gurung was among the first people to reach the site after the deadly storm and described a scene of total destruction.
He said all the tents had been flattened, reduced to a tangled mess of tarpaulin and broken polls, and the climbers’ bodies were scattered across a wide area, including
some in a river bed some 500 metres away from the main camp.
“Everything is gone, all the tents are blown apart,” Gurung said.
Gurung landed a helicopter just above the expedition team’s camp
and attempted to descend to the campsite with a group of local villagers, but icy and unstable conditions meant they were unable to retrieve any of the bodies.
Rescue officials tried to send a second helicopter to the site on Saturday afternoon but it was unable to fly due to strong winds, police spokesman Sailesh Thapa said.
Another attempt will be made on Sunday, he added.
The storm is the deadliest incident to hit Nepal’s mountaineering industry since 18 people were killed at Mount Everest’s base camp in 2015 in an avalanche triggered by a powerful earthquake.
The previous year, 16 Sherpas were killed on Everest when an avalanche swept through the Khumbu Icefall. Wangchu Sherpa, managing director of Trekking Camp Nepal, who organised the expedition, said they raised the alarm after they had not heard from the South Korean team for nearly 24 hours.
“After they (the climbers) were out of contact since yesterday we sent people from the village and a helicopter to search for them,” he said.
The team had been camped at the foot of the 7,193-metre Mount Gurja since early October, waiting for a window of good weather so they could attempt to reach the summit.
Feted South Korean climber Kim Chang-ho, who in 2013 became the fastest person to summit the world’s 14 highest mountains without using supplemental oxygen, was leading the expedition, according to a government-issued climbing permit. —
A helicopter lands close to a storm site after searching for missing mountaineers on the gurja himal mountain in Nepal. —