Five mountain climbers have died after getting caught in a snowstorm on Europe’s highest mountain, Mount Elbrus in Russia.
Fourteen others were rescued from the summit, during high winds, low visibility, and temperatures of -4ºF. Eleven of those rescued were taken to hospital.
The ‘non-professional’ group sent out an SOS call at around 5 pm local time on Thursday at an altitude of over 16,000ft.
During the ascent, a female member of the party fell ill 300-feet from the summit, causing her and a guide to split from the group and turn back. She later died in his arms. The rest of the group continued to the summit.
Having reached the summit, the group was caught in an ‘unprecedented storm’ during their descent. These ‘most difficult conditions’ caused a member of the group to break his leg, further fragmenting the group again. As they descended, two of those in the group froze to death, while two others lost consciousness and died as they were brought down the mountain.
Many of the guides suffered frostbite and other injuries. Sixty-nine rescuers were involved. The five victims, all Russian tourists, have been named as Anna Makarova, 36, Yelena Nesterova, 32, Vyacheslav Borisov, 39, Anastasia Zhigulina, 40, and Irina Galchuk, 32.
A criminal case has been opened into the deaths of the climbers and how the ascent was allowed to go ahead.
While the climb is not considered technically difficult, Elbrus is regarded as one of the world’s deadliest peaks, with a high ratio of climber deaths to climbers. On average, 30 people die every year attempting to summit the mountain, and 2004 saw 48 deaths.
According to Wikipedia, Mount Elbrus is the highest and most prominent peak in Russia and Europe. It is situated in the western part of the Caucasus and is the highest peak of the Caucasus Mountains. The dormant volcano rises 5,642 m (18,510 ft) above sea level; it is the highest stratovolcano in Eurasia and the tenth-most prominent peak in the world. The mountain stands in Southern Russia, in the Russian republic of Kabardino-Balkaria.
Elbrus has two summits, both of which are dormant volcanic domes. The taller, western summit is 5,642 metres (18,510 ft); the eastern summit is 5,621 metres (18,442 ft). The eastern summit was first ascended on 10 July 1829 by Khillar Khachirov, and the western summit in 1874 by a British expedition led by F. Crauford Grove and including Frederick Gardner, Horace Walker, and the Swiss guide Peter Knubel.