Mount Everest: Avalanche Death Toll Rises To 13

By Bill Chappell NPR

Search teams have recovered the body of the 13th victim of a deadly avalanche on Mount Everest. Crews are digging through a mass of ice and snow in an unstable ice field on the world’s tallest mountain in hopes of finding Sherpa guides who are still missing.

“Three guides remain missing, according to the head of the Nepalese government’s mountaineering department,” NPR’s Julie McCarthy reports from New Delhi. “The recovery effort requires a painstaking climb over a treacherous pass, called Popcorn for its bulging chunks of ice, and a new snowfall could slow the search for the missing Sherpa.”

The guides had been working to set up a route for climbers to follow on expeditions this season, fixing ropes and carrying equipment for their companies’ foreign clients. But they were overwhelmed at the Kumbu Icefall by a wall of snow.

The disaster is being called the worst in the mountain’s history. One of those who survived, Wangdi Sherpa, 26, tells CNN that as the avalanche sped toward him, he and his assistant sheltered behind a large chunk of ice.

“A big piece of ice suddenly came off the mountain. I did not think I would survive,” Sherpa says.

The pair stayed in place as the falling ice created a dust cloud that reduced visibility to nothing, he says.

“We knew it was an avalanche but we couldn’t run away or do anything,” another survivor, Ang Kami Sherpa, 25, tells Britain’s The Telegraph. “There was a big chunk of snow that fell over us and swept us away. It looked like clouds, all white.”

The newspaper adds that some of the climbers who had already arrived at Base Camp to prepare for their planned ascent were shaken up by the tragedy and have canceled their plans.

This season was due to be a busy one, according to the Himalayan Times:

“According to the Tourism Ministry’s records, a total of 334 mountaineers representing 31 teams are headed for Mt Everest this season. More than 500 support staff have already arrived in the Khumbu region to prepare for the summit.”

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