Hopes vanished Monday for three French climbers missing in the Himalayas after an avalanche, their national climbing federation putting the chances of finding them alive to “practically zero”.
The trio were attempting to climb Mingbo Eiger, a 6,000-meter (19,700-foot) peak near Mount Everest in Nepal, and were last heard by satellite phone from their camp on October 26.
The French Federation of Alpine and Mountain Clubs (FFCAM) said on Monday the men appeared to have abandoned their summit attempt and turned around when the avalanche struck.
“At the foot of the cliff, the rescuers found three bags and equipment from their bivouac,” FFCAM said in a statement.
“Hopes of finding survivors are currently virtually nil.”
Mingma Gyalje Sherpa, a member of the search and rescue team mobilized by the National Association of Mountain Guides of Nepal, however, said the operation, hampered by bad weather, would continue on Tuesday.
“We studied where they were last seen and looked around. So far there is nothing to share,” he told AFP.
The three young climbers, named Thomas Arfi, Louis Pachoud and Gabriel Miloche, were part of an eight-person expedition. They had split into two groups to face different peaks.
FFCAM also rejected claims in local media that they did not have the proper permits.
Mountaineers have started returning to Nepal after the pandemic forced the complete shutdown of its mountaineering industry last year and devastated the tourism-dependent economy.
The Himalayan nation of 30 million people reopened its doors to tourists and removed quarantine requirements for foreigners vaccinated in September.