- Image 1 of 2
- Image 2 of 2
KATHMANDU, Nepal – The nine climbers who died during the worst disaster on a Nepal mountain in recent years included the first South Korean to summit all 14 Himalayan peaks over 8,000 meters without using supplemental oxygen.
Seoul's Foreign Ministry confirmed on Monday that Kim Chang-ho was among the dead but has not yet disclosed the names of the four other South Koreans. Four Nepalese guides also were killed when a storm swept the climbers' base camp on Gurja Himal mountain Friday.
Rescuers had retrieved the climbers' bodies on Sunday after weather cleared. The body of one of the guides was taken to his village, while the eight others were flown to Kathmandu.
"It was the worst mountaineering disaster in Nepal in recent years and an unimaginable one," said Rameshwor Niraula of Nepal's Mountaineering Department, which issues climbing permits and monitors expeditions.
Niraula said officials were still gathering details of what exactly happened but from what rescuers described, the climbers were blown over by the blast of the blizzard-like wind conditions.
One Korean member of the climbing team had become ill and was in a village far below the base camp during the storm.
It was the deadliest climbing disaster in Nepal since 2015 when 19 people were killed at Mount Everest base camp by an avalanche triggered by an earthquake that devastated the country. The previous year, an avalanche above Everest's base camp killed 16 Nepalese Sherpa guides.
The Himalayan range includes all 14 of the world's peaks that rise above 8,000 meters, and only a few dozen climbers have made verified, successful ascents of them all. Kim achieved his feat in 2013.
Santa Lama of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, who helped with coordinating the rescue, said since all nine people at the camp were killed and no surviving witnesses it was difficult to say what exactly happened or when.
The climbers were also attempting to scale a 7,193-meter (23,590-foot) peak which is not among the highest, the most difficult or popular mountain to climb in Nepal.
Grieving family members gathered at the Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital in Nepal's capital where the bodies were to be autopsied before being handed to their families.
The South Korean ministry told reporters strong winds during the storm blew the victims from their base camp off a steep cliff. Word of the destruction got out Saturday morning, and helicopters were sent. They were not able to land due to the continuing bad weather but spotted the bodies, which were retrieved Sunday.
They were issued permit to climb the peak during the autumn climbing season. Spring and autumn are the optimal climbing seasons in Nepal in between the harsh winter and summer monsoon.
Associated Press writer Kim Tong-hyung in Seoul, South Korea, contributed to this report.