Dozens of trekkers cut off by snowfall near Mount Everest

One of the photographs from Elevation 8,848, A Journey in the Land of the Clouds, a 2013 exhibition of 27 photographs that took visitors from Lukla all the way to the top of Mount Everest. -- PHOTO: VALERIE BOFFY / KARINE MOGE / R ROLLINS
One of the photographs from Elevation 8,848, A Journey in the Land of the Clouds, a 2013 exhibition of 27 photographs that took visitors from Lukla all the way to the top of Mount Everest. -- PHOTO: VALERIE BOFFY / KARINE MOGE / R ROLLINS

KATHMANDU (REUTERS) - Dozens of foreign hikers and Nepali guides returning from a trekking trip to the base camp of Mount Everest have been cut off by heavy snowfall, a police official said on Sunday.

They have been forced to stay in four hotel resorts in the Gokyo area near the world's tallest peak, which has been battered by heavy snowfall following freak rains in the last 24 hours, police officer Chandra Dev Rai said from Salleri, the nearest town.

Gokyo lies in Solukhumbu region where Mount Everest is located and is a popular destination for hikers. Tens of thousands of trekkers and climbers visit the Solukhumbu region in northeast Nepal every year.

"There is chest-deep snow in the area. There is no report of any casualty so far. If the snowfall continues for long the tourists need emergency rescue," Rai said by phone.

Most mountainous areas in Nepal have experienced snowfall due to rains which are not common during this time of the year.

Weather officials in Kathmandu said the bad weather could continue for a couple of days, worsening the plight of the trapped tourists who could face a food shortage.

D.B. Koirala, chief of the Himalayan Rescue Association Nepal, said he had not received any SOS call from the hikers.

December ends the peak tourist season in South Asia's poorest country, which gets nearly 4 per cent of its gross domestic product from tourism.

Freak snowfall and avalanches triggered by the tail of the Hudhud cyclone in October killed at least 43 foreign and Nepali hikers in the popular Annapurna Circuit, in the west of the country.

An avalanche struck Mount Everest during the peak climbing season in April killing 16 Nepali guides in the deadliest incident on the world's tallest peak, forcing hundreds of foreign climbers to abandon their ascent to the 8,850 metre Everest summit.