The slide occurred in the Khumbu Icefall. (Photo: Getty Images)

Three Climbers Are Missing on Mount Everest After a Massive Avalanche

The climbers were navigating the Khumbu Icefall when a serac collapsed above the glacier


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Climbing season on Mount Everest has yet to kick off and already there’s been a potentially deadly disaster.

According to reports in The Himalayan Times and website Everest Chronicle, three Sherpa climbers who were navigating the treacherous Khumbu Icefall were buried by an avalanche on Wednesday morning. The slide was triggered when a massive ice serac located on the ridg above the glacier collapsed—falling debris tumbled down and swept the men into a crevasse, Everest Chronicle reported.

Climber Lakpa T. Sherpa filmed the massive slide and uploaded video to his Instagram page on Wednesday afternoon.

An official with the Himalayan Rescue Association named Lakpa Norbu Sherpa told The Kathmandu Post that the chances of rescuing the three climbers is “very slim.” Officials launched an aerial search shortly after the incident occurred, but they were unable to see the missing men.

“They are buried five to six meters underneath. It’s not possible to launch a search mission because the risk of an avalanche is still ongoing,” Lakpa Norbu Sherpa told the Post. “We have traced the spot but it’s not possible to go there. The ice sheets are as big as houses.”

The three missing climbers are all veterans of Himalayan expeditions, and all three have summited the world’s highest peak. According to Everest Chronicle, the missing men are Lakpa Rita Sherpa, Pemba Tenjing Sherpa, and Da Chhiri Sherpa. They were working for guiding company Nepal Trek and Expedition, the website reported.

“They were descending from Camp II after unloading expedition logistics,” Palden Sherpa of the company told the website. “The company is doing everything possible, and we will continue the search tomorrow.”

The incident etches the latest chapter into the long history of accidents in the Khumbu Icefall, which is regarded as one of the most dangerous sections of the popular South Col route from Nepal. The Khumbu glacier tumbles 2,000 vertical feet down from the Western Cwm, breaking into enormous shifting chunks as it descends, some as big as skyscrapers. Every year, guides must trace a new route through the shifting ice, fixing ropes and laying ladder bridges across crevasses. Called the ”Icefall doctors,” these guides do some of the most dangerous work on the mountain. Over the years, multiple rope fixers and climbers have been killed there by avalanches, collapsing ice towers, and falls.

In 1970, six guides working for the Japanese expedition to film the adventure documentary The Man Who Skied Down Everest died when an avalanche swept them away. In 2014, 16 Sherpas perished when a serac fell from the ridge and crashed onto a team fixing ladders across a crevasse.

Teams hoping to ascend Mount Everest are reaching Base Camp this week for the traditional acclimatization period on the mountain, before the push for the summit occurs in May and early June. In mid April, guides climb high on the mountain to break trail and fix ropes for the climbing teams. Elsewhere in the Himalayas, the climbing has begun on 26,545-foot Annapurna and 26,781-foot Manaslu, but summit pushes on both mountains have been delayed by recent heavy snow storms.

These storms may have contributed to the avalanche on Wednesday, Everest Chronicle reports. “Fresh snow has not settled properly, which makes it tricky. The icefall doctors had tough time navigating the route through mounds of fresh snow,” Tshering Sherpa, an official with the Icefall Doctors, told the website.

Lead Photo: Getty Images