Massive avalanche struck Mount Everest on 18 April 2014 killing about 12 Nepalese Sherpa guides and injuring several others. This avalanche was the deadliest mountaineering accident witnessed on the world’s highest peak.
The avalanche occurred at an altitude of about 5800 meters (19000 feet) in an area known as popcorn field, which is located on the route to the treacherous Khumbu icefall.
Nepalese Sherpa guides and climbers
The Sherpa people are an ethnic group in eastern Nepal who guides mainly the foreign clients to climb the summit. For past six decades, they have been guiding mount climbers in climbing expeditions on the world’s highest peak.
Around 4000 people have scaled the peak of Mount Everest since 1953, the year when the New Zealander Edmund Hillary and the Nepalese Sherpa Tenzing Norgay became the first to reach the 8848-metre-high summit of Mount Everest on the Nepal-Tibet border.
Other worst recorded accident on Everest occurred are
• Snowstorm on 11 May 1996 in which killed eight climbers and this tragedy was immortalized in the best-selling book Into Thin Air, written by Jon Krakauer, an US mountaineering journalist.
• Avalanche of 1970 in which six Nepalese guides were killed.
What is avalanche?
Avalanche is also known as snow slip or snowslide and is a rapid flow of snow down the sloping surface. Generally, this is triggered due to mechanical failure in the slab avalanche (snowpack) and snow exceeds its strength.
Other big cause of natural avalanches is metamorphic changes in the snowpack such as melting due to solar radiation. Other natural causes include rain, earthquakes, rockfall and icefall. Artificial triggers of avalanches include skiers, snowmobiles, and controlled explosive work.
In cases, when the avalanche moves enough faster than it may mix snow with the air and form snow avalanche, a type of gravity current.
Types of Avalanche
• Slab avalanches
• Powder snow avalanches
• Wet snow avalanches