Snow­storm kills at least eight climbers in Nepal

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - BREAKING NEWS: 423-757-NEWS - BY BHADRA SHARMA, KAI SCHULTZ AND CHOE SANG-HUN

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.

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