Avalanche kills at least 12 guides in deadliest incident on Mount Everest

Fri Apr 18, 2014 4:47pm EDT
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By Gopal Sharma

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - An avalanche sweeping down Mount Everest killed at least 12 Nepali guides on Friday in what may be the deadliest single incident on the world's highest peak.

The avalanche struck a perilous passage on the main route to the summit as sherpas were preparing the way for climbers at the start of the season. Nepal's tourism ministry listed the 12 dead and four others missing, presumed buried in the snowslide.

Scottish film maker Ed Wardle put the death toll at 16 - including five from his own party - with more badly injured.

"One of the most horrific sites I ever saw on Everest was seeing the bodies being airlifted on long lines below the helicopters," he told Britain's Channel 4 News.

It was Everest's first major avalanche of this year's climbing season, when hundreds of foreign and Nepali climbers will attempt to reach its 8,848-metre (29,029 ft) peak.

The Himalayan Guides, a Nepali hiking group, said six of its sherpas had gone ahead of climbers they were accompanying in order to fix ropes and crack snow and ice to carve out a route, when they were caught in the avalanche and died.

"They were very strong and skilled climbers. It is a natural disaster and no one could do anything about it," Ishwari Paudel, the owner of the company, said in Kathmandu. The other victims were working for other mountaineering parties.

More than 4,000 climbers have scaled Everest's summit since it was first climbed by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa in 1953. The route they took along the South Col was the one hit by the avalanche on Friday.   Continued...

Doctors expecting the arrival of the victims of a Mount Everest avalanche standby near the helipad at Grandi International Hospital in Kathmandu April 18, 2014. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar