KATHMANDU • A rescue team yesterday began retrieving the bodies of nine climbers who died in a violent storm on Nepal's Mount Gurja, a freak accident that has left the mountaineering community reeling.
A helicopter dropped four mountain guides at the camp where the South Korean climbing expedition was staying when powerful winds and snow swept through, killing the entire team and scattering their bodies as far as 500 metres away.
"All nine bodies have been found and the team are in the process of bringing them down," said chopper pilot Siddartha Gurung, who is coordinating the retrieval mission.
A second helicopter, along with a team of rescue specialists and villagers, were also involved in the mission, which has been hampered by strong winds as well as the camp's remoteness in the Dhaulagiri mountain range of Nepal's Annapurna region.
The bodies of the climbers - five South Koreans and four Nepalis - will be flown to tourist hub Pokhara then to Kathmandu, said Mr Yogesh Sapkota of helicopter company Simrik Air.
The expedition's camp was totally destroyed by the powerful storm, which hit the area late on Thursday or Friday. The expedition was led by experienced South Korean climber Kim Chang-ho, who has climbed the world's 14 highest mountains without using supplemental oxygen.
Mountaineering experts are questioning how the experienced team was so badly hit while still at base camp at around 3,500 metres. "At this point we don't understand how this happened," said Mr Dan Richards of emergency assistance group Global Rescue.