MUMBAI – Ankur Bahl, a New Delhi shipping industry specialist, was ascending Mount Everest as part of a quest to climb the world’s tallest peaks when a devastating earthquake in Nepal stranded him about 21,000 feet above sea level.
Now Bahl, 54, is stuck at Camp 2, about halfway up the mountain, after the path down was blocked following avalanches, according to his wife Sangeeta, who’s trying to arrange for a helicopter evacuation. About 120 other climbers are either in Camp 1 or Camp 2 and can’t get back to base camp, she said.
Failure to evacuate the remaining climbers could add to the death toll on Everest, where at least 19 people, including a Google Inc. executive have already died after Saturday’s earthquake. Many of those killed were at base camp, which was heavily damaged by boulders, snow and blocks of ice.
Bahl told his wife via satellite phone on Saturday that his group of 12 climbers felt the tremors while climbing to Camp 2 from Camp 1, which has an elevation of around 20,000 feet. He hung up because the phone was low on battery, and they haven’t spoken since.
Madison Mountaineering, the Seattle-based company leading Bahl’s expedition, said on its website that the climbers were safe and would attempt to reach Camp 1 for an air evacuation. The group’s medic, Marisa Eve Girawong of New Jersey, died of her injuries at base camp, it said.
The route through the Khumbu Icefall that stands between Camp 1 and base camp is impassable, Garrett Madison of Madison Mountaineering wrote on the site. The group is running low on food and fuel and needs to descend, he said.
“At this point our only option to get down is by helicopter evacuation,” Madison wrote. “Our plan is to descend tomorrow to Camp 1 and hopefully with good weather fly to base camp to reconnect with the other members of our expedition who survived the avalanche.”
Nineteen bodies have been recovered from Everest base camp, Sitanshu Kar, a spokesman for India’s Defense Ministry, said on Twitter. More than 2,300 people have died altogether in the most powerful earthquake to hit Nepal since 1934.
Bahl’s friends were trying to arrange an airlift for him via Indian military helicopters, Sangeeta said. Bahl and Sangeeta, also an avid mountaineer, are attempting to climb the highest peaks on all seven continents.