Officials are calling it the deadliest accident ever to happen on Mt. Everest. A group of 50 people, mostly Nepalese Sherpas, were climbing Mt. Everest to help repair ropes, but only made it to about 20,000 feet when disaster struck.
At least 12 Sherpa guides, who are legendary mountaineers, were swept away and killed in the avalanche Friday morning. CNN notes several others are still missing, so the death toll could rise.
"With no apparent warning, a wall of snow crashed over the western shoulder of Everest, covering a popular path to the mountain's peak. ... Recently, climbing routes have been altered to avoid areas that are more prone to avalanches."
This one was so vast, however, it just didn't matter. Not only that, the avalanche wiped out ladders, so now some climbers are stuck above the collapse. Gavin Turner, who was watching from a base camp when the incident happened, spoke to ABC.
"Suddenly there was a huge thud, we were covered by this enormous cloud of snow and snow dust, but for a few seconds I thought 'wow, this is going to take me out.'"
The avalanche happened above a base camp in an area called the Khumbu Ice Fall, seen here in this YouTube video. Climbers and guides had been setting ropes, and were there to begin acclimating to the climate, getting ready for the climbing season that begins in mid-May. (Via YouTube / Nelson Dellis)
NBC reports the area where the avalanche happened is just below 21,000 feet. The station had a producer on the ground as well as a cameraman, they were there working on a project for NBC and the Discovery channel.
"The biggest tragedy of this is that it's the very beginning of the season and to lose this number of people at the very beginning of the season may be the end of the season here."
Reports say as soon as the avalanche struck on the 29,035-foot mountain, several rescuers and climbers rushed in to help. Despite its dangers, since 1953, more than 4,000 climbers have scaled the treacherous mountain.