BFF-09 Search begins for nine climbers killed on Nepal peak

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NEPAL-SKOREA-MOUNTAINEERING-ACCIDENT

Search begins for nine climbers killed on Nepal peak

KATHMANDU, Oct 14, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – A rescue team was Sunday attempting to
retrieve the bodies of nine climbers killed in a violent storm on Nepal’s
Mount Gurja, a freak accident that has left the mountaineering community
reeling.

A helicopter reached a village just below the area where the South Korean
climbing expedition was camped when powerful winds and snow swept through,
killing the entire team and scattering their bodies as far as 500 metre
(1,640 foot) away.

“The helicopter will drop the four guides at the site and they will collect
the bodies,” said Siddartha Gurung, a chopper pilot who is coordinating the
retrieval mission.

Attempts to reach the remote site in the Dhaulagiri mountain range in
Nepal’s Annapurna region on Saturday were hampered by strong winds.

Gurung did manage to reach the area and described a scene of total
destruction.

“Base camp looks like a bomb went off,” said Dan Richards of Global Rescue,
a US-based emergency assistance group that will be helping with the retrieval
effort.

The expedition was led by experienced South Korean climber Kim Chang-ho,
who has climbed the world’s 14 highest mountains without using supplemental
oxygen.

Mountaineering experts are questioning how the experienced team was so
badly hit while still at base camp at around 3,500 metres.

“At this point we don’t understand how this happened. You don’t usually get
those sorts of extreme winds at that altitude and base camps are normally
chosen because they are safe places,” said Richards.

The team — five South Koreans and four Nepali guides — had been on 7,193-
metre (23,599-foot) Mount Gurja since early October, hoping to scale the
rarely climbed mountain via a new route.

A sixth South Korean climber was staying at a village lower in the valley
when the storm hit, after being forced to a lower altitude by health
problems.

The freak storm is the deadliest incident to hit Nepal’s mountaineering
industry since 18 people were killed at Mount Everest’s base camp in 2015 in
an avalanche triggered by a powerful earthquake.

The previous year, 16 Sherpas were killed on Everest when an avalanche
swept through the Khumbu Icefall during the busy spring climbing season.

Then in October that year, a blizzard killed more than 40 tourists and
their guides in the Annapurna region, a disaster that was largely blamed on
poor weather forecasting and lacklustre safety standards in Nepal’s poorly
regulated trekking industry.

BSS/AFP/MSY/0915 hrs