Rescuers on Mount Everest have found the body of a 13th Nepalese guide buried under snow with authorities ruling out hope of anyone else surviving the deadliest accident ever on the world’s highest peak.
Three Sherpas remain missing from Friday’s avalanche.
The victims were among a large party of Sherpas who left Everest base camp before dawn, carrying tents, food and ropes to prepare camps for foreign clients ahead of the main climbing season, which starts later this month.
“One (more) body has been recovered,” police official Kumar Timilsina told Agence France-Presse from the base camp of the 8848-metre peak.
“The search party will continue to look for the missing three,” he said.
The avalanche occurred at an altitude of 5800 metres in an area nicknamed the “popcorn field” due to ice boulders on the route leading into the treacherous Khumbu icefall.
Dozens of guides were on the move when a huge block of ice broke off from a hanging glacier, before splitting into smaller chunks and barrelling down into the icefall, one of the most dangerous areas on the route to ascend Everest.
The ice “tumbled for several thousand feet, resulting in debris that came further out into the icefall”, according an account by the International Mountain Guides climbing company, which has a team stationed on the peak.
Veteran climber Alan Arnette, who summitted Everest in 2011, said mountaineers usually tried to go through the icefall “as quickly as possible”.
The hanging glaciers “are by definition unstable, sooner or later they are going to break and fall, making the icefall very dangerous”, Arnette told AFP from his home in Colorado.
“You first hear the sharp crack of ice and then you can try to shield behind another block of ice, but in this case, they really had nowhere to hide.”
More than 300 people, most of them local guides, have died on Everest since the first summit by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953.
The mounting death toll underscores the huge risks borne by local guides, who ascend the icy slopes, often in pitch-dark, usually weighed down by tenting equipment, ropes and food supplies for their clients.
Base camp police official Timilsina told AFP climbers had suspended all expeditions until the completion of rescue operations.
“People have lost friends they’ve worked hand in hand with. Everyone is heartbroken,” he said.
The previous worst accident on Everest occurred in 1996 when eight people were killed during a storm while attempting to summit the mountain.