By Anil Giri
Kathmandu, May 23:
Veteran Indian mountaineer from West Bengal, Chhanda Gayan was reportedly killed when an avalanche struck while she was on her way to ascend the 8,505-metre Kanchenjunga West peak, Nepali officials here said Friday.
Gayen, an Everester, went missing while she was on her way to climb Kanchenjunga West, also known Yalung Kang, after she had ascended 8,585-metre Kanchenjunga Main, the third highest mountain peak in the world, Monday evening.
Two government officials of Taplejung district, where the Kanchenjunga West and Kanchenjunga Main are located, said the expedition organiser, Seven Summit Treks, informed three other mountaineers — one from India and two Nepali Sherpa guides — that Gayen and her two Sherpa guides “have been killed”.
Dipendra Poudel, an official at the mountaineering division of Nepal’s tourism ministry, told IANS “until we find the bodies, we cannot declare them dead”. He added it is impossible for them to be alive since they have been missing for four days.
“We still call it ‘missing’, but no one can be alive for four days in icefall,” he added.
Chief district officer of Taplejung district, some 800 km east of Kathmandu, told IANS over phone that Seven Summit Treks has declared the three dead so that the information can be attested by the local administration.
According to Nepali local law, it is illegal to declare a person dead until the his or her body is recovered.
“We will resume the search operation again Sunday. Bad weather is hampering the search mission,” Poudel said.
Gayen had set a record for climbing the 8,848-metre Mt Everest and the 8,516-metre Mt Lhotse in the same expedition within an interval of two days.
Megha Raj Kandel, district superintendent of police of Taplejung, said that Indian national Gayen, 35, along with Temba Sherpa, 24, and Dawa Wanchu Sherpa, 28, of Tamku-5 “have been killed”.
Two other members of the Seven Summits Treks of Kathmandu, Na Tashi Sherpa and Phurtemba Sherpa of Sankhuwasabha, survived the tragedy.
The avalanche struck at an altitude of 7,300 metres in a place called Yangla while the mountaineers were returning to the fourth camp, police said. The team was on its way to the fifth camp but was forced to retreat due to bad weather.
Local media cited a hotel entrepreneur, Chhiring Sherpa, as saying that attempts were underway at the base camp of the mountain to dig out the bodies from the pile of snow.
(Anil Giri can be contacted at [email protected])