Everest Base Camp. Photo: ilkerender CC-BY-2.0

Everest Base Camp. Photo: ilkerender [CC-2.0]

Up to 20 mountaineers are feared dead after a huge avalanche struck Everest Base Camp, triggered by a major earthquake in Nepal.

Nepal authorities say the death toll throughout the country is likely to be more than 2,000, after the earthquake, with a magnitude of 7.8, struck the Kathmandu Valley yesterday.

Aftershocks caused further falls of snow and rock, and the route through the Khumbu icefall, used by climbers on the ascent of the world’s highest mountain, means climbers above base camp, at camps one and two, will have difficulty descending.

A deputy team leader with Keswick Mountain Rescue Team Chris Harling, who is leading an expedition up the mountain, gave an eyewitness report of the incident.

Posting on Facebook, he said: “Here in basecamp we initially felt minor tremors, then the ground began to feel like jelly as waves passed through the rocks beneath our feet.

“Climbers appeared from tents all over camp to try to start to comprehend what they were feeling. As the movement became more violent I expected the loose and precarious rocky slopes above the camp area to start shedding huge boulders. It was extremely alarming wondering if we were to be buried by rockfall.

“Sure enough, an area of steep cliffs did break off sending car-sized boulders hurtling down only a few hundred metres from our tents.

“We are still feeling aftershocks hours later. Our thoughts are with any local staff working on Everest who may have been affected by losses in today’s quake.

“I’m currently tucked up in my sleeping bag thinking hard about a horrible crazy day when mountains millions of years old came alive, when solid rock shook like jelly and the two substances that I love to climb on came crashing down destroying lives and dreams.

“It’s eerily dark and silent now and the sky has not wanted to miss out: basecamp is now covered with 6 inches of fresh snow. Waiting for the next set of aftershocks to shake the ground beneath my tent.”

The largest avalanche is believed to have been released from Pumori, 8km (5 miles) west of Everest’s peak.

Terrifying You Tube footage of the avalanche hitting Everest Base Camp. Contains strong language, understandably.

Current reports say 17 people have died at Everest Base Camp, but the figure could rise. Among them was Google executive Dan Fredinburg, who was with a team from the adventure company Jagged Globe.

A company spokesperson said: “It is with the greatest sorrow that we report the death of one of our Everest team members, Daniel Fredinburg.

“Two other team members have non-life threatening injuries, as a result of the avalanche that struck basecamp during the earthquake and its aftershocks. They are being looked after in base camp. All Sherpas and other team members are uninjured and are safe in base camp or in Gorak Shep, a nearby cluster of tea houses and lodges.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to Dan’s family and friends while we pray too for all those who have lost their lives in one of the greatest tragedies ever to hit this Himalayan nation.”

The earthquake triggered a huge avlanche above base camp.

Mountaineers at camp one are surveying the icefall with a view to re-establishing a route down for the climbers above the fall, believed to number nearly 100.

Rolfe Oostra reported from camp one: “As Jo and I arrived into C1 in low visibility we heard a tremendous noise – it was all around us, presuming an avalanche – which was a nightmare to pin the direction on.

“The noise and movement was enough to trip us off our feet. Later there was the loudest noise I have ever heard coming from below – basecamp – which produced an enormous backdraft.

“It was not easy to work out what was going on but we were naturally now pretty wired trying to predict avalanches as well as make out what was happening. After frantic coms to base camp it was related to us that there had been huge avalanches and landslides on a devastation scale into basecamp triggered by the earthquake.”

Sources in Nepal also report numerous trekkers as missing.

British Mountaineering Council chief executive Dave Turnbull said: “This is a major tragedy. We are still gathering information about the impact of mountaineers at Everest Base Camp and elsewhere in Nepal. Our thoughts are with all those affected by the earthquake.”

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