Sixteen Sherpas are dead after collapsing ice blocks swept the lower slopes of Mount Everest just below Camp 2, at approximately 6:30 a.m. last Friday. The Nepalese Sherpas were carrying gear and fixing ropes on the standard South Col route for guided clients who are on the mountain preparing for what is typically a bustling pre-monsoon season. The area swept by the avalanche is know as the “popcorn field” and is at roughly 21,000 feet. The accident is the deadliest single-incident in the history of Everest, and one of the deadliest in mountaineering. In 2012, 12 climbers perished in an avalanche on Manaslu, and prior to yesterday’s avalanche on Everest, the mountain’s deadliest single day was in 1996 when eight climbers died in the much publicized “Into Thin Air” disaster.
The Sherpas were in a group of approximately 50 when the avalanche hit. Six were injured. Over 300 climbers have permits for the upcoming season and are supported and guided by approximately 400 Sherpas. Last year, over 500 climbers summited Everest.
Thirteen bodies have been recovered and three Sherpas remain missing. Buried under ice blocks, they may never be found.
As has been the case where Sherpas or even paying clients have been killed, most teams will teams will likely press on in their quest to conquer the world’s highest mountain, despite an unusual movement by the Sherpas to strike, shutting down climbing on Everest. The Nepalese government is also considering closing Everest for the year.