Nine climbers die on Mt Gurja after snowstormNine climbers—five South Koreans and four Nepalis— died at the Mt Gurja base camp in Myagdi district when a violent snowstorm devastated their camp, police said on Saturday.
Nine climbers—five South Koreans and four Nepalis— died at the Mt Gurja base camp in Myagdi district when a violent snowstorm devastated their camp, police said on Saturday.
The mountaineers were waiting in a camp for a fair window of weather to climb the 7,193-metre peak in western Nepal. This was the first team in eight years attempting the mountain.
The Myagdi District Police Office identified the deceased Koreans as Jaehun Lee, Chang Ho Kin, Jin Rim, Youngjik Yoo and Joon Mo Jeong. The Nepali victims are known to be Tsering Bhote, Lakpa Sangbu Bhote, Phurba Sherpa and Netra Chhantyal.
There are no exact details of when the disaster struck but officials suspect the snowstorm might have occurred on Thursday night. Nepali climbing guide Lakma Sherpa, who was assisting another Korean climber, said they were forced to return after the 77-year-old climber fell ill three hours before reaching the base camp on Thursday. “We suspect that the snowstorm hit the base camp on Thursday night,” Lakma said.
No contact was established with the team at the base camp on Friday morning when Trekking Camp Nepal, the agency handling the expedition, tried it repetitively.
“When a team of locals reached the site, it was clear immediately that the camp was hit by snowstorm,” Lakma said.
It must be a terrible snowstorm as the climbers’ bodies, tents and food items were scattered in cliffs all around—up to 200 meters from the camp that was set atop a hill. The base camp is located at an altitude of 4,500 metres.
Officials suspect that a massive avalanche on the mountain may have triggered the snowstorm.
“We received a phone call from the Trekking Camp Nepal on Friday that the team at the base camp was out of contact,” said Meera Acharya, director at the Department of Tourism, which issues climbing permits. A team of locals, who reached the site after a day-long walk, was unable to retrieve the bodies due to bad weather and geographical difficulties and had to return, said Sama Prasad Chhantyal, who lost his close relative in the disaster. “We then requested for helicopter rescue,” he said.
A helicopter rescue team spotted all the bodies amid the wreckage of the camp on Saturday morning but strong winds hampered the effort to retrieve the bodies, said Acharya. “The helicopter team hopes to return to the camp on Sunday, if weather conditions improve.”
Mt Gurja sits in the south face of Dhaulagiri, the world’s seventh highest mountain.