Rescuers have recovered the bodies of nine climbers who died in a storm while attempting to climb Gurja Himal, a mountain in the Himalayas that was last summited 22 years ago, according to CNN. Among the dead was famed South Korean climber Kim Chang-ho, who had previously climbed all of the Himalaya’s 8,000-meter peaks.
He and his team of four other South Korean climbers along with four Nepalese guides were attempting to find a new route up Gurja Himal, and the incident prompted a statement from South Korean President Moon Jae-in:
“Nine climbers were taken forever by a snow storm but their bravery and tireless spirit demonstrated by their attempt to find a new route will not be buried with them,” he said in a Facebook post.
According to rescuers, an intense storm appears to have dislodged large chunks of ice that ravaged the climbers’ camp on the mountain.
“It seems that a serac (a piece of glacial ice) broke and barreled down the couloir (a gully on a mountainside) from the top ridge of the mountain and the gust created the turbulence washing the climbers and staff from their tented camp,” Suraj Paudyal, a member of the rescue team, told CNN.
All nine bodies were recovered by helicopter on Sunday. The CBC reports that this marks the deadliest climbing disaster in Nepal since 2015, when 19 people perished at Mt. Everest base camp in an avalanche caused by the earthquake that caused severe damage throughout the country.
The team began their journey up the rarely climbed mountain on September 11, and the entire trip was expected to take 45 days. Compared to the taller Himalayan peaks that surround it, Gurja Himal is rarely climbed, and only 30 people have ever reached its summit (4,800 have climbed to the top of Mt. Everest). Jiban Ghimire, an expedition organizer for Shangrila Nepal Trek, told the CBC that less popular mountains like Gurja can be a draw for climbers looking for a more pristine route.
“These people like to go to mountains which are not crowded and there are no commercially organized expeditions of big groups. On the bad side, they are also far from getting help when in trouble,” he said.