BREAKING NEWS Fire in Oroville prompts evacuations Full Story
BREAKING NEWS FDA approves remdesivir to treat Covid-19 Full Story
SEVERE WX : Fire Weather Watch - Freeze Warning View Alerts

Himalaya storm leaves nine dead on Nepal's Mount Gurja

A renowned South Korean climber was among nine people killed when a vicious snowstorm hit their camp on Nepa...

Posted: Oct 15, 2018 2:10 PM
Updated: Oct 15, 2018 2:10 PM

A renowned South Korean climber was among nine people killed when a vicious snowstorm hit their camp on Nepal's Mount Gurja.

Police and locals are working to bring the bodies off the mountain and to Kathmandu, South Korea's Foreign Affairs Ministry said in a statement.

Asia

Blizzards and ice storms

Continents and regions

East Asia

Himalayas

Mountains (by name)

Nepal

Physical locations

Severe weather

South Asia

South Korea

Weather

Mount Everest

Mountain climbing

Outdoor recreation

Sports and recreation

A rescue helicopter was dispatched at about 7:15 a.m. Sunday, and by 9:40 a.m. all nine bodies were found, the ministry said. Some bodies had been located Saturday.

The nine-person team had been missing since Friday, when officials lost contact with the climbers. It was not clear how much progress they'd made up the 7,193-meter (23,600-foot) Himalayan peak. No climber has summited the mountain, which is far less popular than Mt. Everest, in 22 years.

It also was not exactly clear how they died, but the storm that struck their camp was particularly violent. Capt. Siddartha Gurung, a helicopter pilot who is coordinating the retrieval mission, described a scene of total destruction.

"Base camp looks like a bomb went off," added Dan Richards of Global Rescue, a US-based emergency assistance group assisting in the retrieval effort.

Based on the condition of the bodies and the fact the team's camp was in tatters, rescue workers hypothesize that the team was killed by the storm's ferocious winds.

"It seems that a serac (a piece of glacial ice) broke and barreled down the couloir (a gully on a mountainside) from the top ridge of the mountain and the gust created the turbulence washing the climbers and staff from their tented camp at the base camp," said Suraj Paudyal, a member of the rescue team.

The bodies were rescued by placing them in a net attached to a 30-meter rope fixed to the belly of a helicopter, he said.

Rock star climber among dead

In a Facebook post, South Korean President Moon Jae-in identified the South Korean climbers as team leader Kim Chang-ho and team members Lee Jae-hoon, Yim Il-jin, Yoo Young-jik and Jung Joon-mo. The four Nepali guides who died have not been identified.

"They were on their way to find a new route to Gurja Himal but encountered an accident," said the president, a noted outdoorsman who has himself trekked in the Himalayas.

The team had embarked on a 45-day expedition to find a new route up Mt. Gurja on September 11, said Kim's representative agency, Eurasiatrek.

Yoo was in charge of equipment, Lee was charged with taking care of food and medical supplies and Yim was a documentary filmmaker, the agency said. Jung "was visiting Kim to encourage the team's expedition but was swept by the strong winds," Eurasiatrek said.

"There are dangers to all areas where humans attempt to push the boundaries. Nine climbers were taken forever by a snow storm but their bravery and tireless spirit demonstrated by their attempt to find a new route will not be buried with them," Moon's statement said.

"As long as challenges for new routes continue, the souls of people who have become part of the mountains will forever remain in our hearts."

In 2016, the International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation awarded Kim an Asian Piolets d'Or Award, or golden ice ax award. Given for excellence in mountaineering, the awards are known as the "Oscars of alpinism."

Kim received the honor for leading a team of three up a new route on the south face of 7,455-meter-high Mt. Gangapurna, in the west Nepalese Annapurna region.

At the time of the award, only nine teams had successfully summitted Gangapurna since 1965, according to GlacierHub, an educational initiative seeking to expand understanding of glaciers.

While the climb was arduous on its own -- rife with glacial ice and loose rock, according to GlacierHub -- the International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation commended Kim's team for making the climb without leaving a trace, including gear and waste.

"Their climbing achievements in itself were excellent, however, most of all they left nothing on the mountain," the federation said.

Upon receiving the award, Kim had already climbed all 14 Himalayan Giants -- peaks higher than 8,000 meters -- without supplementary oxygen, the federation said.

Seldom summitted peak

Only 30 people have reached the apex of Mt. Gurja, the last one in 1996, according to the Himalayan Database. Compare that to Mt. Everest, which more than 4,800 climbers have summited -- many of them sherpa who have achieved the feat more than once. Everest is roughly 225 miles to the east.

According to guide company Satori Adventures, Gurja is the shortest peak in the Dhaulagiri range, a daunting massif that's home to the world's seventh-highest mountain as well as several peaks higher than 7,500 meters.

"The Gurja Himal expedition is suitable for those climbers who are willing to summit 7000m peaks in a less touristic area are and are not interested in climbing the crowded peaks," Satori Adventures' website says.

Paudyal, who has been working in rescue and recovery operations since 2012 -- before that he was a journalist and worked with CNN -- said despite the mountain's shorter height, it can be extremely dangerous due to vicious winds and deep gullies.

"It's an extremely difficult mountain," he said. "It has cliffs everywhere."

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 886939

Reported Deaths: 17167
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles2904866944
Riverside650561275
San Bernardino609451065
Orange576351423
San Diego53263863
Kern33551413
Fresno30220430
Sacramento24811474
Santa Clara23591382
Alameda22932435
San Joaquin21436484
Contra Costa18273238
Stanislaus17403394
Tulare17317279
Ventura13930160
Imperial12610336
San Francisco11969137
Monterey1115884
San Mateo10918157
Santa Barbara9671119
Merced9386153
Sonoma9016134
Kings817383
Solano720574
Marin7036127
Madera492873
San Luis Obispo408032
Placer402355
Yolo309958
Butte302651
Santa Cruz272524
Napa190814
Sutter182112
Shasta178629
San Benito141114
El Dorado13024
Yuba128010
Mendocino111121
Tehama7938
Lassen7611
Lake67815
Glenn6473
Nevada5988
Humboldt5609
Colusa5486
Calaveras33917
Amador31316
Tuolumne2574
Inyo21815
Siskiyou1860
Del Norte1751
Mono1752
Mariposa782
Plumas610
Modoc270
Trinity250
Sierra60
Alpine30
Unassigned00
Chico
Scattered Clouds
75° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 75°
Oroville
Scattered Clouds
76° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 76°
Paradise
Scattered Clouds
75° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 75°
Chester
Clear
50° wxIcon
Hi: 60° Lo: 33°
Feels Like: 50°
Red Bluff
Clear
75° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 75°
Willows
Scattered Clouds
75° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 75°
Very strong winds and dry conditions are driving critical fire danger today. A Red Flag Warning for high fire danger, a Wind Advisory, and a Freeze Warning are all in effect for the start of your Thursday.
KHSL Severe
KHSL Radar
KHSL Temperatures

Community Events