Recovery workers on Mount Everest have found the body of a 13th guide. Authorities have ruled out hope of finding any more survivors from the deadliest accident ever on the world's highest peak.
Three remained missing when searchers suspended efforts on Saturday. Friday's avalanche (pictured) hit as dozens of Sherpas approached Everest's boulder-lined "popcorn field" leading into the treacherous Khumbu Icefall. Four survivors were taken to hospitals on Friday, and others with minor injuries were treated at the base camp.
"We have suspended the rescue operation for today," tourism ministry official Madhusudan Burlakoti told the news agency AFP on Saturday. "It is risky to continue searching the mountain as evening sets in,"
Following Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, who became the first to reach Everest's 8,484-meter peak - the world's highest - in 1953, 4,000 people have successfully made the climb. However, about 300, including two Germans in 2012, have died on the mountain in the past six decades, as well. That the bulk of those killed are local guides underscores the huge risks faced by Sherpas, who often ascend the icy slopes in the dark weighed down by tenting equipment, ropes and food supplies for their clients.
Climbers attempt soul-searching
After news of Friday's accident, many of the Sherpas on the mountain gathered their belongings and left, with some saying they would not return at all this season. Shocked relatives wondered how they would cope without the men who take huge risks to earn up to $5,000 (3,500 euros) for a two-month expedition - about 10 times the average annual pay in Nepal.
"My Sherpa said he won't be returning: He has a wife and a 2-year-old son and the love of his family outweighed any financial reward," the Australian climber Gavin Turner, 38, told the news agency AFP. He added the accident left "many climbers asking themselves if they should go ahead."
The president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association said families would receive life insurance payments amounting to $10,000 (7,000 euros). The impoverished Himalayan country, home to eight of the world's 14 peaks that surpass 8,000 meters, counts tourism as a key revenue-earner. Nepal's government offered 40,000 rupees ($400, 300 euros) to families to help cover funeral costs, a sum relatives have called a pittance.
In Kathmandu Saturday, families awaited bodies ahead of funeral rites at the capital's Buddhist monasteries. Phinjum Sherpa said her father, Ang Kaji Sherpa, had climbed Everest five times.
"After the 10th expedition, he will stop," the teenager told AFP on Saturday, recalling her father's plans before Friday's avalanche ended his life. "I spoke to him on Thursday evening," she added. "He said he was going up the next morning, but the weather was not very good ... He said, 'pray for me'."
Aside from putting Sherpas in danger, climbers of Mount Everest have also been criticized for their negative environmental impact. Overcrowding has been cited as another danger of the mountain.
mkg/mz (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)