Five climbers die in sudden snowstorm on highest mountain

·2-min read

Five climbers have died after they got caught in a sudden snowstorm on Russia's Mount Elbrus, the highest mountain in Europe.

The incident struck when a group of 19 climbers were at an altitude of over 5,000 metres.

The other 14 members of the party were rescued on the peak in the Caucasus in "the most difficult conditions”, with high winds and heavy snow amid temperatures of minus -20 Celsius, the regional emergency ministry said.

Pictured in this image are a group of US mountaineers, one of who lost his way in a blizzard on Mount Elbrus at an altitude of some 5,000 metres and sent an SOS signal. Four members of the Elbrus high-altitude search and rescue team of Russia's Ministry of Emergencies rescued the US national. Russian Emergencies Ministry/TASS/Sipa USA
One of the US mountaineers lost his way in a blizzard on Mount Elbrus and sent an SOS signal. Source: AFP/Handout

Eleven of the survivors were taken to hospital.

The group of Russian climbers sent out a mayday call on Thursday, the ministry said.

The company which organised the climb said there were four professional guides accompanying the climbers.

During the ascent, one of the climbers felt unwell and turned back with one of the guides. She later died "in his arms," it said.

The rest of the group continued to the summit but an "unprecedented storm" struck on their way down.

One of the climbers broke a leg, further slowing down the group.

"Probably because of this, the group lost time, the weather deteriorated catastrophically... They decided to split the group into three parts - those going faster and those going slower," Denis Alimov, who organised guides for the climb, told TASS news agency.

KABARDINO-BALKARIA, RUSSIA - SEPTEMBER 24, 2021: Rescue service workers help a surviving member of a group of climbers during a search and rescue operation on Mount Elbrus in the Caucasus Mountains. Several climbers have died while ascending Mount Elbrus in unfavourable weather conditions, at -20 degrees Celsius, with the wind speed of around 40 metres per second and the visibility not more than 1 metre. Russian Emergencies Ministry/TASS/Sipa USA
RIGHT: Rescue service workers help a surviving member of a group of climbers during a search and rescue operation on Mount Elbrus in the Caucasus Mountains. Source: AFP/Handout

"As they descended, two more people died in one of the groups. But the decision to split up was the right one, otherwise there might have been more casualties.”

Two climbers froze to death and two others lost consciousness and died as they were brought down, the company said.

The guides and some of the participants have been hospitalised with frostbite.

While the ascent is not considered technically difficult, dozens of climbers die every year during summit attempts.

Elbrus, located in Russia's North Caucasus, is the highest mountain in Europe at 5,642 metres.

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