Five climbers die in snowstorm on Europe’s highest mountain

Five climbers die in snowstorm on Europe’s highest mountain
The other 14 members of the climbing party were rescued amid high winds, low visibility and sub-zero temperatures

Five mountain climbers have died after getting caught in a snowstorm on the highest mountain in Europe, Russia’s Mount Elbrus.

Their deaths were confirmed by Russia’s regional emergency ministry, which said that 14 other members of the climbing party were rescued from the mountain’s peak, amid high winds, low visibility and temperatures of -20C.

The climbers sent out a call for help just after 5pm local time on Thursday at an altitude of over 16,000ft.

Of those rescued, 11 were taken to hospital with injuries.

Denis Alimov, who helped organise the guided climb, vertel TASS agency about the horrors the group endured.

On the ascent, one of the women in the party felt ill and turned back with one of the guides, hy het gesê, dying later in his arms.

The rest of the group continued to summit, hy het gesê.

But on the way down, an “unprecedented storm” struck. Under these “most difficult conditions”, another climber broke his leg, Mr Alimov said.

This slowed the group down, and forced them to split into three groups, based on speed.

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

He added that guides suffered frostbite and other injuries.

The company said that two in the group froze to death, while two others lost consciousness and died as they were brought down the mountain, AFP berig.

Mount Elbrus, a dormant volcano, is located in the western Caucasus Mountains. It has an elevation of 18,510ft above sea level and is the tenth-most prominent peak in the world.

A cable car system allows visitors to reach heights of 12,500ft with relative ease. From that point, those wishing to reach the summit can do so from a variety of routes.

Although not considered a technically difficult climb, the route is dangerous because of the elevation and strong, gusting winds. Boris Tilov, the former head of the Elbrus rescue service, said that on average, tussen 15 en 30 people die every year on the mountain, mostly due to unorganised trips of under-prepared people attempting the climb.

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