Everest avalanche: 12 killed as snowslide crashes through Sherpa guides laying ropes in mountain's deadliest day

 

Asia Correspondent

Nepal's Sherpa community is confronting a dark tragedy after at least 12 guides were killed by an avalanche that swept down a climbing route on Mt Everest. A search was ongoing for at least three more guides still missing following the deadliest ever single day on the world's highest mountain.

Officials said the men were killed after the avalanche struck at around 6.30am on Friday as they were laying fixed ropes for other climbers. Rescue workers struggled to pull their bodies from mounds of snow and ice after they were struck just about Camp 2. Two men, who survived but suffered injuries, were lifted from the ice debris and flown by helicopter to Kathmandu.

A spokesman for Nepal's Tourism Ministry, Mohan Krishna Sapkota, told the AFP news agency that all the climbers involved were of Nepali origin and had been preparing the route ahead of the main spring climbing season, which starts in a matter of days.

"The sherpa guides were carrying up equipment and other necessities for climbers when the disaster happened," he said.

Friday's deaths easily surpassed the previous highest number of deaths on Everest. That occurred on May 11 1996 when eight foreign climbers were killed in bad weather, an event that featured in journalist Jon Krakauer's book Into Thin Air. Six Nepalese guides died in an avalanche in 1970.

Hundreds of foreign and local climbers have gathered at the base camp of Everest to prepare for attempts on the 29,035-foot mountain early next month when weather conditions become optimal and provide a small, brief window of opportunity for people to realise their ambitions. In preparation, teams of sherpas have been setting up fixed ropes that their clients, who pay many thousands of pounds to scale the peak, will attach themselves to while ascending the mountain.

The avalanche is said to have struck in an area situated at around 21,000ft and known as the "popcorn field". The area lies on the route towards the notorious Khumbu ice fall, an unavoidable passage which has claimed the lives of many climbers over the years.

In recent years the number of climbers in Everest, especially those with less experience, has soared and the Nepalese authorities have introduced  measures to try and better organise the flow. Officials have been dispatched to base camp to spend the climbing season there and address any problems

Yet impoverished Nepal is loathe to deter climbers from scaling the peak because of the permit fees they pay and the employment they provide for sherpas and other support members. So far, a total of 334 permits have been issued to foreign climbers for the year, up from 328 last year. There has even been talk of reducing the cose of permits to encourage yet more mountaineers.

Climbers have complained that overcrowding on the mountain, especially at crucial points such as the Hilary step, has led to increasing numbers of unnecessary deaths.

More than 4,000 climbers have scaled the summit since 1953, when it was first conquered by New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. Around 250 people have died doing so.

Friday's deaths underscore the perilous work undertaken by the sherpas, who lug ropes, tents and supplies for foreign climbers. It was reported that Kathmandu-based climbing company Himalayan Climbing Guides Nepal had confirmed two of their guides were among the dead and other employees were among those still missing.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore