Dean Staples on the summit of Mt Everest in 2007.
Four Kiwis were among a climbing group on Mt Everest when
a deadly avalanche struck on Friday, killing at least 12
Nepalese advance party guides and leaving four others missing.
The New Zealanders, including two women, are with a team from
Wanaka-based company Adventure Consultants which organises
trips to the world's highest summit. Three of the dead
Sherpas, who lived in Nepal, were also working for the firm.
Expedition leader Dean Staples, base camp manager Caroline
Blaikie, food boss Sarah Macnab and electrician Mark Ayre
were a six-hour hike from the disaster when it hit.
Adventure Consultants general manager Suze Kelly said the
staff, all based in Wanaka, are in shock at the base camp and
watching helplessly as helicopters ferried dead colleagues
off the mountain.
"We have been in constant contact with our team by satellite
phone and a big priority was letting their families back here
know they are safe," Kelly said. "The climbing fraternity is
a close-knit community and everyone is devastated by what has
"The Sherpas were carrying supplies and food from the base
camp to another spot further ahead when they encountered the
"We are relieved that our team at base camp are safe but
saddened by the death of the Sherpas, who we had employed for
Expedition leader Staples, 49, has summited Everest nine
times. The experienced Kiwi team set off with 25 contracted
Sherpas on the first stage of the climb on April 2.
"The team is still at the base camp and at this stage we do
not know when they are expected to return," Kelly said. "They
have not had much sleep and are now pretty exhausted. Losing
their Sherpa friends has been the hardest part. It is a lot
to take in."
Kelly said Adventure Consultants had been operating for more
than 20 years and chief executive Guy Cotter was on his way
from New Zealand to Nepal to help.
The three dead Sherpas who were working for the Wanaka firm
are: Phurba Ongyal from Pangboche, Lakpa Tenjing from
Khumjung and Chhring Ongchu from Khumjung.
Kiwiblog author David Farrar, from Wellington, was returning
from a trek to Everest Base Camp with a party of New
Zealanders when the disaster happened. "We were in the Base
Camp area two days before the avalanche," he told the Herald
on Sunday. "The avalanche was up near Camp 1 which is higher
up the mountain."
It's understood five of 13 Sherpas killed were employed by an
NBC Everest expedition.