Snowstorm kills at least eight climbers in Nepal
KATHMANDU, Nepal — At least eight climbers, including a South Korean world-record holder, were killed after a violent snowstorm ripped through their camp in the Himalaya Mountains in Nepal, officials said Saturday.
The climbers — four South Koreans who were planning to summit the nearly 24,000-foot Mount Gurja, and their four guides — died Friday after falling off a cliff during the storm, the South Korean Foreign Ministry said Saturday.
Nepali officials said the bodies of the team’s local guides also were spotted from a helicopter. A fifth climber from South Korea was missing and presumed dead.
“It seems no one is alive,” said Wangchu Sherpa, managing director of Trekking Camp Nepal, the company overseeing the climbing expedition on Mount Gurja.
It was the deadliest accident to hit Nepal’s climbing community since 2015, when an avalanche set off by an earthquake pummeled climbers on Mount Everest, killing 18 people.
Rescuers said Saturday they had located the bodies of eight climbers near Mount Gurja’s base camp, which sits more than 11,000 feet above sea level. But helicopters could not land in the area long enough to retrieve them because of strong winds and the remoteness of the camp. The nearest police station is a threeday walk.
Shailesh Thapa Kshetri, a police spokesman in Nepal, said it was unlikely that an avalanche had struck the team, because the bodies were not buried. He noted that the storm was particularly strong.
“Their tents were destroyed, and the dead bodies were scattered,” he said.
Among the dead was Kim Chang-ho, a decorated climber who had scaled the world’s 14 tallest peaks, including Mount Everest, in a record time span of seven years and 10 months, according to South Korean mountaineering officials. He also was one of a few climbers who summited those peaks without the aid of supplemental oxygen.
“Endless glaciers under my feet make my heart throb,” Kim was once quoted as saying. “I feel like I should discover every corner of the Himalayas.”
Kim had flown to Nepal last month to find a new route to the summit of Mount Gurja. His team planned to name the route “Korean Way: One Korea — Unification of North and South Korea,” the Korea Alpine Federation said.
Officials identified the other South Korean climbers as Yoo Young-jik, Lee Jae-hun, Jeong Joon-mo and Rim Il-jin, a documentary film director. The Nepali guides were Chhiring Bhote, Lakpa Sangbu Bhote, Netra Bahadur Chantel and Phurbu Bhote.
Accidents from storms and avalanches occur with regularity in Nepal, home to many of the world’s tallest peaks.
In 2014, a blizzard killed at least 27 people, many of them foreign hikers, in the worst trekking disaster to hit Nepal in recent memory. The next year, after the earthquakes jolted Nepal and buried climbers on Mount Everest, another avalanche with about half the force of an atomic bomb also killed hundreds of people in the village of Langtang, a popular tourist destination.