Japanese, Spanish climbers missing on Nepal mountain

KATHMANDU (AFP) - Three climbers, including a Japanese woman and a Spanish man, are missing and feared dead on Nepal's rugged Dhaulagiri mountain, tourism officials said on Monday.

Ms Chijuko Kono, 67, of Japan, Spain's Mr Juanjo Garra, 50, and a Nepalese guide Dawa Sherpa went missing on Friday as they attempted to climb the world's seventh highest peak, tourism ministry official Dipendra Paudel told AFP.

"They were at Camp Four at 7,800 metres (and) I cannot say whether they reached the top," said Mr Paudel.

The trio were part of a larger expedition comprising 21 climbers when they went missing, said Mr Tilak Pandey, another official at the tourism ministry. The remaining climbers are safe, he added.

"We will know the details only after one of the expedition team members arrives in Kathmandu," Mr Paudel said, adding that Mr Garra's Nepalese guide Keshav Gurung had been airlifted to the city of Pokhara for treatment.

"It's hard to say for sure but three days later chances of their survival seem minimal," Paudel said.

The 8,167-metre Dhaulagiri has a high death rate for climbers, according to Himalayan Database, a statistical hub run by Kathmandu-based mountaineering expert Elizabeth Hawley.

Every May, hundreds of climbers attempt to scale peaks in the Himalayas when weather conditions are at their best.

Eight people died on Mount Everest, the world's tallest peak, this season while five climbers are feared dead on Kanchenjunga mountain, which is the world's third highest peak.

More than 300 people have died on Everest since it was first conquered by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953.