Search for Missing Mountaineer Continues

Park Young-seok Park Young-seok

Korean mountaineer Park Young-seok and his two colleagues remain missing after four days of search efforts in the Himalayan mountain range in Nepal, the Korean Alpine Federation said on Sunday.

Park set out towards Annapurna -- a range that contains one of the world’s most famous 8,000-m-plus peaks -- with the aim of pioneering a new climbing route in the southwestern flank of Annapurna 1. But the party went missing during their descent at 7 p.m. on Tuesday after notifying the base camp by satellite phone that they were going down due to heavy snow and falling rocks.

"We suspect the mountaineers slipped into the Bergschrund [a large crevasse], which is 30 m to 40 m deep and 4 m to 5 m wide, near their starting point on the southern flank of Annapurna 1 at 5,800 m above sea level," the federation said. "We tried searching inside of the Bergschrund, but we could not find anything."

After mounting several search operations, the KAF's emergency rescue team on Saturday came to the conclusion that the party was trapped inside the huge crevasse. There were signs of an avalanche having occurred nearby, with snow still pouring into the fissure. This prompted a local rescue team to conduct a probe into the Bergschrund on Sunday to look for Park and his colleagues. It was a dangerous rescue attempt due to the risk of further avalanches and tumbling rocks pouring into the crevasse.

Rescuers usually edge their way slowly into a crevasse by hitching their safety belts to a pulley and a rope, a slow and arduous affair given the device's limited range of activity. The rescue team had to curtail their efforts midway through on Sunday because they encountered problems that made it too difficult to reach the bottom.

"The rescuers reached the middle of the crevasse where the crack became very narrow, but because of high risk of [the roof of snow and ice] collapsing, they had to withdraw," the federation said.

englishnews@chosun.com / Oct. 24, 2011 11:04 KST