Three French climbers reported missing in Everest region
A desperate search and rescue operation is underway after three French climbers were reported missing on Saturday after an avalanche hit a mountain near Mount Everest.
According to French media, the missing climbers have been identified as Thomas Arfi, Gabriel Miloche and Louis Pachoud. They were part of an eight-member expedition team that was scaling the 6,783-metre Mt Khangtega in the Khumbu region.
The media report said that the three climbers had reportedly gone out of contact on October 26, but the incident was reported only on Saturday.
According to Pralhad Chapagain of the Holiday Himalaya Trek and Expedition, the agency that had facilitated the group to obtain the climbing permits, the Department of Tourism had issued the permits on October 23.
Ang Norbu Sherpa, president of Nepal National Mountain Guides Association, which is leading the search and rescue operation, said the exact location from where the climbers went missing is unknown.
“We don’t know whether it is Mt Amadablam or Mt Khangtega from where the climbers went missing, since both mountains are located in the same range,” Sherpa said.
“Contact has been established with the five other expedition members. They are expected to reach Kathmandu by tomorrow or the day after tomorrow.”
Pratap Jung Pandey, managing director of Kailash Helicopter Services, said the search was stepped up on Sunday at the request of the family members of the missing climbers, but the inclement weather hindered their effort.
“The helicopter had to return due to the bad weather condition. We will continue the search on Monday,” Pandey told the Post. “We have spotted a bag and what appeared to be a tent remains on a steep slope of the mountain.”
Photographs posted by the helicopter company on its Facebook page show some objects covered by heavy snow deposits on a mountain slope.
A team of experienced high-altitude climbers are accompanying the helicopter search party.
Mingma Gyalje Sherpa, one of the rescue members, said a brief aerial search was carried out on Sunday on the mountain slope where they spotted a massive deposit of snow, most likely caused by an avalanche.
“We could not conduct a comprehensive search due to bad weather conditions,” Sherpa told the Post from Lukla. “We plan to fly back to the site early Monday morning to continue our search.”
Meanwhile, an official at the Department of Tourism, the government agency that issues the climbing permits, said that they have heard unconfirmed reports about the missing French climbers.
“We have heard about the missing French climbers but we are yet to get official details about the incident,” Bhishma Raj Bhattarai, a section officer at the department, told the Post.