This weekend, nine climbers were killed when a storm ripped through their camp at Mt. Gurja, a 24,000-foot peak in the Himalayas. Among the dead were four Nepali guides and a team of five South Korean climbers, including world record-holding mountaineer and the trip’s leader, Kim Chang-ho.
It’s a bit unclear what exactly happened.
The bodies were found strewn below a cliff after a particularly violent storm had passed through their camp. The team’s tents were shredded and the victims scattered, though not buried, according to officials who participated in the rescue, so it’s unlikely an avalanche killed the team.
“A massive block of ice (serac), probably 100 metres (330 ft) tall, likely fell from the mountain along a gorge, sending strong winds that hit the camp, threw the climbers off a cliff edge and into a ravine,” said one of the rescuers in an interview with Reuters.
Mt. Gurja is not heavily climbed, and, according to the Himalayan Database, hasn’t been summitted for more than 20 years, and only 30 times in total. The team had ascended at least as far as base camp, just over 11,000 feet when authorities lost contact with the group.
Kim had set a record for the fastest climber to summit all of the world’s 14 tallest mountains without the aid of supplemental oxygen, according to the New York Times, in a series of climbs that began in 2005 and concluded in 2013. He’s also reportedly the first South Korean to climb each of those peaks without bottled oxygen.
“I feel truly alive when I find new mountains and glaciers,” Kim said in a previous interview.
This was the worst climbing accident in Nepal since an avalanche killed 18 climbers attempting to reach the peak of Mt. Everest in 2015.
Photo: Charles Ng