Avalanche kills climbers in Nepal

BY foxsports • September 24, 2012

Rescue helicopters flew over the high slopes of a northern Nepal peak again Monday to search for climbers lost in an avalanche that killed at least nine mountaineers and injured others. Many of the climbers were French, German and Italian.

The avalanche a day earlier hit a camp with more than two dozen climbers high up the slopes of the world's eighth-highest peak, Mount Manaslu. It came at the start of Nepal's autumn climbing season, when the end of the monsoon rains makes weather in the high Himalayas unpredictable.

Police official Basanta Bahadur Kuwar said three rescue helicopters resumed the search on Monday morning. Bad weather had forced them to halt flyover searching Sunday afternoon. Other climbers and guides on the mountain were also searching on foot and had managed to bring three more bodies to the base camp on Monday, Kuwar said.

The bodies of a Nepalese guide and a German man were recovered on Sunday and rescue pilots had reported spotting seven other bodies on the slopes. Spain's Foreign Ministry said from Madrid that one climber killed was Spanish. The identities of the others were still being confirmed.

Ten climbers survived, but many were injured and were flown to hospitals by rescue helicopters.

Nepal's autumn mountaineering season is less popular than spring, when hundreds of climbers crowd the high Himalayan peaks. Italian, German and French teams were on the mountain, with a total of 231 climbers and guides, but not all were at the higher camps hit by the avalanche, officials said.

The avalanche hit a camp at 7,000 meters (22,960 feet) early in the morning as the climbers were preparing to head toward the summit, which is 8,156 meters (26,760 feet) high.

Rescue pilot Pasang, who uses only one name, said three injured French citizens and two Germans had been transported to hospitals in Katmandu. He said rescuers were also attempting to bring the bodies of the dead back to the base camp.

Nepal has eight of the 14 highest peaks in the world. Climbers have complained in recent years that climbing conditions have deteriorated and risks of accidents have increased.

Veteran mountain guide Apa, who has climbed Mount Everest a record 21 times, traveled for months across Nepal earlier this year campaigning about the effects of global warming on the mountain peaks.

He told The Associated Press the mountains now have considerably less ice and snow, making it harder for climbers to use ice axes and crampons on their boots to get a grip on the slopes.

Loose snow also increases the risk of avalanches. The cause of Sunday's avalanche was not immediately determined.

Bill Amos, of Portland, Oregon, an avid mountaineer and ice climber who founded the mountaineering apparel company NW Alpine, said "it's super sad when our fellow climbers die.'' Amos said his initial thought when he heard about the deadly avalanche in Nepal was that the mountain was being overcrowded with climbers.

"That seems to be the same thing that's going on in Everest,'' he said. "All of that is overcrowding and these commercial expeditions trying to make money.''

Amos added that people who venture into the mountains need to understand the risks and dangers associated with backcountry travel and be able to spot avalanche terrain and dangerous snowpack.