An instructor and four novice climbers have been killed in an avalanche in Russia's southern Caucasus mountain range.

An emergency official says four other climbers in the party survived the snow slide, which struck as they were ascending a more than 12,000-foot peak by the easiest route.

The novice climbers were all in their 20s and extremely well equipped.

The body of their 40-year-old instructor was found immediately, and a search operation including helicopters and 100 rescuers turned up four other bodies this morning.

The mountain they were climbing is about 40 miles east of Europe's highest peak.

The novice climbers had undergone an intensive, six-day training course immediately before the ascent.