An avalanche on the slopes of Mount Everest killed at least 12 Nepalese Sherpa guides on Friday, making it one of the deadliest days in the history of the mountain. Photo: AP.
The world's tallest peak. an avalanche has occurred on Mount Everest. Source: News Limited
AN avalanche swept down a climbing route on Mount Everest, killing at least 12 Nepalese guides and leaving four missing in the deadliest disaster on the world's highest peak.
Several more were injured.
The Sherpa guides had gone to fix ropes for other climbers when the avalanche struck an area known as the "popcorn field" for its bulging chunks of ice at about 6:30am, Nepal Tourism Ministry official Krishna Lamsal said from the base camp, where he was monitoring rescue efforts.
An injured survivor told his relatives the path up the mountain was unstable just before the avalanche struck at an elevation just below 21,000 feet (6,400 meters). As soon as the avalanche hit, rescuers, guides and climbers rushed to help.
Rescue workers pulled out 12 bodies from under mounds of snow and ice and were searching for the four missing guides, Lamsal said. Officials had earlier said three were missing.
The Daily Mail reports that five of the guides who died were employed by NBC's Peacock Productions for a Discovery Channel program scheduled to air in May.
Mountaineer ... Dawa Tashi Sherpa, survivor of the avalanche on Mount Everest, lies in the Intensive Care Unit at Grandi International Hospital in Kathmandu. Picture: Prakash Mathema Source: AFP
"Some of the sherpas were working for us. We lost five members of our team this morning,' Scottish filmmaker Ed Wardle told Channel 4. "It's absolutely devastating. The atmosphere here at base camp is one of shock and now of grieving.
"I believe it's the worst disaster in Everest history if not all mountaineering," he said.
The NBC crew was on the mountain preparing to film a jump with American wing suit flier Joby Ogwyn.
An Australian documentary team is also currently on Everest, filming a feature documentary on a 2014 expedition entirely from the Sherpas' points of view.
Rescue workers pulled out 12 bodies from under mounds of snow and ice and were searching for the four missing guides.
Four survivors were injured badly enough to require airlifting to a hospital in Kathmandu. One arrived during the day, and three taken to the foothill town of Lukla could be evacuated Saturday. Others with less serious injuries were being treated at base camp.
The avalanche struck ahead of the peak climbing season, when hundreds of climbers, guides and support crews were at Everest's base camp preparing to climb to the summit when weather conditions are at their most favourable early next month. They had been setting up camps at higher altitudes, and guides were fixing routes and ropes on the slopes above.
The wall of snow and ice hit just below Camp 2, which sits at an elevation of 21,000 feet on the 29,036-foot mountain, said Ang Tshering of the Nepal Mountaineering Association.
Worst accident ever ... Mount Everest as it rises behind Mount Nuptse as seen from Tengboche, in the Himalaya's Khumbu region, Nepal. Source: AP
Hundreds of climbers, their guides and support crews have gathered at the base camp to prepare for attempts to scale the 8850-metre high mountain early next month when weather conditions become favourable. They have been setting up camps at higher altitudes and guides have been fixing routes and ropes on the slopes above.
One injured guide, Dawa Tashi, lay in the intensive care unit at Grande Hospital in the capital late Friday after being evacuated from the mountain. Doctors said he suffered several broken ribs and would be in the hospital for a few days.
Tashi told his visiting relatives that the Sherpa guides woke up early and were on their way to fix ropes to the higher camps but were delayed because of the unsteady path. Suddenly the avalanche fell on the group and buried many of them, according to Tashi's sister-in-law Dawa Yanju.
The Sherpa people are one of the main ethnic groups in Nepal's alpine region, and many make their living as climbing guides on Everest and other Himalayan peaks.
Camp 2 ... where the avalanche has occurred on Mount Everest. Source: News Limited
As soon as the avalanche hit, rescuers and fellow climbers rushed to help.
Earlier this year, Nepal announced several steps to better manage the heavy flow of climbers and speed up rescue operations. The steps included the dispatch of officials and security personnel to the base camp at 5300 metres (17,380 feet), where they will stay throughout the spring climbing season that ends in May.
Anxious wait ... Fhurbu Sherpa (left), wife of Nepalese mountaineer Dawa Tashi Sherpa who survived an avalanche on Mount Everest, with family members at the Grandi International Hospital in Kathmandu. Picture: Prakash Mathema Source: AFP
More than 4000 climbers have scaled the summit since 1953, when it was first conquered by New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. Hundreds have died attempting to reach the peak.
The worst recorded disaster on Everest was on May 11, 1996, when eight climbers were killed in one day because of a snowstorm near the summit. Six Nepalese guides were killed in an avalanche in 1970.
Inside Mount Everest ... the many camps at the world's tallest peak. Source: News Corp Australia