The nine climbers of a South Korean expedition in the Gurja Massif, Nepal, lost their lives in a violent snowstorm that devastated their camp, making one of the worst mountaineering tragedies in the Himalayas.
The bodies of eight people – four South Koreans and four Nepali guides – were located Saturday among the debris of their camp by a rescue team, but the cold and unstable weather conditions slow down the search, said the spokesman of the Sailesh Thapa police.
Initially missing because he had to join the main team late, a fifth South Korean climber was finally located at the base camp that was ravaged by the storm, bringing to nine the death toll, according to the authorities.
“An alpine expedition of five South Koreans and four foreigners was blown away by strong winds at their base camp during the ascent of Mount Gurja; they fell off a cliff and died, “said a statement from the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Helicopter pilot Siddartha Gurung, one of the first to reach base camp after the storm, told AFP a scene of chaos.
Everything was blown, the tents flew away. The victims were scattered all over the site. The weather is too cold and unstable for further research.
Siddartha Gurung, helicopter pilot
According to the Nepalese Ministry of Tourism, a second helicopter was sent Saturday afternoon to the site. Due to weather conditions, “we are not sure he will be able to land,” said ministry spokesman Mira Acharya.
Wangchu Sherpa, from the Trekking Camp Nepal organization, who organized the expedition, said the alert was given after 24 hours without news of the climbers.
“There was no contact with them since yesterday, so we sent people from a village and a helicopter to find them,” he said Saturday.
This accident is the most serious since an avalanche caused by an earthquake, which had carried 18 people on the slopes of Everest in 2015. The previous year, 16 sherpas had also been killed on Everest by an avalanche.
An original expedition
The South Korean mountaineers and their Nepalese guides have been camping since the beginning of October at the foot of this peak, which peaks at 7193 meters, until a clearing allows them to continue the ascent.
The expedition was led by experienced Korean mountaineer Kim Chang-ho, who in 2013 was the fastest to climb the first 14 world summits without the aid of additional oxygen equipment.
They had planned to climb the Gurja by an unpublished route, according to the Korean Alpine Federation.
Rarely climbed, the Gurja is located next to the Dhaulagiri, the seventh world summit that is frequently subject to avalanches, in the Annapurna Massif, 200 km west of Kathmandu.
Only about thirty mountaineers have defeated the Gurja – against more than 8,000 for Everest – on the slopes of which four people have died since 1969, date of its first ascent by a Japanese team.
Thousands of mountaineers visit Nepal each year, home to 8 of the 14 highest peaks in the world, making a significant contribution to the tourism industry in this small South Asian country without natural resources.
Annette Baker is the lead editor for Slap Coffee. Annette has been working as a freelance journalist for nearly a decade having published stories many print and digital publications including, The Plain Dealer, NPR and The Daily Mail. Annette is based in Boise and covers issues affecting her city and state of Idaho. When she’s not busy writing, Annette enjoys jogging.