New Delhi: At least 40 Indian mountaineers remained trapped on Monday at Everest Camp I and II, cut off from the Base Camp following avalanches triggered by the massive earthquake two days ago, officials said.
Top Indian Mountaineering Foundation (IMF) officials here said the climbers were safe and authorities were considering air rescue operations to evacuate the trapped climbers.
"Around 40 people are still stuck in Camp I (19,500 ft) and Camp II (21,000 ft). No Indians are at Camp III (23,500 ft) and IV (26,300 ft). However, the main thing is that there are no Indian casualties and no reports of any Indians missing," IMF secretary Wing Commander H.K. Kutty (Retd) told IANS.
Three teams from India, accredited to the IMF and attempting the world's highest peak, were trapped on the Everest slopes following the avalanches. Several other teams, which were making their respective attempts in individual capacity, were also affected.
Among the three known teams, one represents the Indian Army while other the two were from the IMF and the Guwahati-based Assam Mountaineering Association (AMA). Around 70 Indians were at the Base Camp, Camp I and II when the avalanches struck their respective camps.
The 34-member Indian Army team was at the Base Camp and was presently engaged in rescue operations.
"Three Indian teams had gone for the expedition. An army team, an IMF team and a team from Assam. The IMF team has already reached Gorakshep which is below the Base Camp while the Assam team, from what I got to know today morning, had reached the Base Camp," IMF president Col. H.S. Chauhan (Retd) told IANS.
Gorakshep (16,942 ft), a roughly 90-minute trek from the Base Camp (17,500 ft) is a frozen lakebed covered with sand. It is the final acclimatisation halt on most common treks to Everest Base Camp and is used for pitching tents.
Meanwhile, the Base Camp (17,500 ft) is used as the starting point for Everest climbs while the other camps come on the way for the mountaineers on the way up. Camp IV is the final halt before the mountaineers climb the Everest summit.
However, air rescue operations were taking a hit due to inclement weather.
"Helicopters can go to Camp I and II in emergency situations but they have to carry less weight when they go to higher altitudes. If they go to Camp I and II they can at most bring down two persons at one go. The higher the altitude, the lesser the weight you can carry," Chauhan said.
"Rescue operations are particularly for people who are injured and need immediate medical attention. Otherwise people who are fit and can climb up can definitely come down. The injured are being rescued by helicopters."
Chauhan added that there are generally 600-800 people at the Base Camp during the summer climbing season.