SA climbers safe on Mount Everest

2014-04-20 15:00

South African climbers are among those people affected by one of the worst ­disasters on the slopes of Mount ­Everest?– an avalanche that has left at least 13 Nepalese mountain guides dead.

Four of the Sherpa guides are still missing.

Sibusiso Vilane of Nelspruit, who in 2003 became the first African to climb Everest, sent a message soon after the tragedy to say that he and his fellow South Africans were safe.

Saray Khumalo, a climber from Johannesburg who is aiming to become the first black woman on Everest, said she and Vilane were fortunately still in base camp at 6.45am Nepalese time when the avalanche occurred about 500m higher up the mountain.

The avalanche hit at an altitude of about 5?800m in a part of Everest known as the Khumbu Icefall at the head of the Khumbu Glacier, which is notorious for its deep and dangerous crevasses.

Vilane and Khumalo are part of a group of 23 climbers, 18 of whom are aiming to reach Everest’s highest peak.

The group attended a traditional puja (prayer ritual) on Thursday, during which a Buddhist spiritual leader ­blessed their expedition.

But barely 12 hours later, the deadly avalanche turned their base camp into a scene of chaos.

One of South Africa’s leading mountaineers, Ronnie Muhl, who is also on Everest at the moment, said he and his group were also safe.

“Rescue work is being done right around us here in the base camp. Rescue helicopters have already brought at least 12 bodies down from the mountain to a spot about 50m from here,” Muhl said.

“It is without doubt the most serious tragedy in Everest’s climbing history.

“The helicopter pilots, who are ­fetching the dead and injured in life-threatening conditions at this height are doing an incredible job,” he said.

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