The bodies of eight climbers -- four South Koreans and four Nepali guides -- were spotted among the wreckage of their camp by a rescue team early Saturday morning, but unstable and icy conditions were hampering the search effort.
"We assume the incident happened because of a snowstorm as trees are broken. Even the dead bodies are scattered," police spokesman Sailesh Thapa said.
Thapa said a ninth climber may also be missing.
A helicopter reached the site and managed to land just above the expedition team's camp, but was unable to retrieve any of the bodies.
"Everything is gone, all the tents are blown apart. The conditions were too icy to continue the search," pilot Siddartha Gurung said.
Gurung said a rescue team would hopefully return to the camp on Sunday, if conditions improved.
|Mount Gurja (123rf)|
Wangchu Sherpa of Trekking Camp Napal, who organized the expedition, said they raised the alarm after they had not heard from the team for nearly 24 hours.
"After (the climbers) were out of contact since yesterday, we sent people from the village and a helicopter to search for the team," he said.
The group of South Korean climbers and their Nepali guides were camped at the foot of the 7,193-meter Mount Gurja, waiting for a window of good weather so they could attempt to reach the summit
Feted South Korean climber Kim Chang-ho, who in 2013 became the fastest person to summit the world's 14th-highest mountain without using supplemental oxygen, is reportedly among the dead, according to local media.
The climbing permit listed four South Korean climbers, but a fifth member had joined the team later, according to Suresh Dakal of Trekking Camp Nepal.
Dakal said they were still struggling to confirm if the fifth South Korean had reached the base camp when the powerful storm tore through the area on Friday.
Rarely-climbed Gurja lies in Nepal's Annapurna region, next to avalanche-prone Dhaulagiri -- the world's seventh-highest mountain.