Update: Bill Burke who is climbing on the North confirmed one climber missing, a Hungarian member of the Asian Trekking North Eco Everest team. A search is currently underway. Listen to Bill’s complete report. He starts discussing the avalanche at 2:04 in the audio update. Thank you Bill.
There was a large avalanche near the North Col on Monday, Tibet time. Before going further, remember that breaking news of accidents from Everest, especially from the north side, in almost every case is inaccurate. However, many teams are posting updates on their websites to inform family members of the status of their climbers. I do not have any direct links to the north so this is based on what the teams there are posting.
The early reports from multiple teams are contradictory. Some say it was a rock fall but most eyewitness are saying it was a large serac or cornice that collapsed near the fixed ropes.
The UK Telegraph is reporting that two climbers are missing and one is dead based on a text message from climber Josh Lewis.
The 7 Summits team has this first person report on their site plus several excellent photographs of the area:
At 2:30 p.m., Chinese time, a big avalanche came down from the North Col of Everest. In the opinion of witnesses, a snow cornice was broken on the crest above the North Col. At this time, about 100 people were on fixed ropes. The avalanche grazed the edge of fixed ropes. According to an eyewitness, sirdar “7 Summits Club” Mingma Gelu, they could see from the camp ABC that search and rescue operations began.
More precise information in one hour: no member of the expedition 7 Summits Club was next to these accident. According to preliminary information, 2 Hungarian climbers fell under the avalanche. One of them have taken already to the camp ABC, he is alive. The second climber has not yet been found.
Adventure Peaks has this report:
Everyone is safe and ok, Stu has telephoned in to inform us that there was a serac collapse (like an avalanche) on the North col this morning which apparently killed two people (Nationallity unconfirmed). Our groups at the time were safely in ABC.
These teams are reporting via their sites all the members are safe: WRET 6 Friends Chomolungma including a report on the Jordan Romero team, 7 Summits, Adventure Dynamics, Adventure Peaks. Remember that many teams have been having difficulty sending dispatches.
These types of incidents while, not uncommon on the north, happen more on the south side in the Khumbu Icefall. However, there have been multiple observations that this year is quite dry on Everest. Recently there have been extremely high winds on the North so all this could have conspired to create the unstable ice.
As for the rest of the season, usually major collapse such as this is a mixed message. With a major danger point removed, the route becomes slightly safer but there may still be other features about to fail. The route may need to be re-routed to avoid these.
Obviously we all send our thoughts to those involved, their families, teammates and friends.
Note, the image in this post is from an avalanche in the Khumbu Icefall in 2008 and not the one being currently reported on the North Col.
I will post an update when there is more news.