Queenstowners caught in Nepal aftermath

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Six Queenstowners are mucking in at Mt Everest base camp in the aftermath of Nepal’s earthquake.

Among them is one of New Zealand’s most experienced mountaineers, Himalayan Experience guide Mark Woodward, who has climbed Everest eight times.

He’s safe and well along with fellow Independent Mountain Guides’ Bruce Hasler, Richie Hunter, Michael Madden, who also work for Himex, Jono Gillan, of Adventure Consultants, and helicopter pilot Jason Laing.

On Saturday a 7.8-magnitude earthquake in Nepal triggered a massive avalanche that swept through the base camp, killing at least 18 people and injuring dozens.

More than 5000 people have died across the country and authorities fear that toll may rise to 10,000.

Independent Mountain Guides owner-operator Dave Macleod, of Queenstown, says the guides stayed at base camp to help with the “clean-up” - helping the injured and recovering bodies.

Communication with the group’s been difficult, however Macleod says text messages from a satellite phone confirm they’re all OK.

“Obviously, they’re very devastated by the event - it’s an absolute disaster for Nepal, for anyone that’s over there.”

Laing, who works for Nepal airline Simrik Air, has been rescuing trapped climbers and their Sherpa guides from camps one and two, and recovering bodies from the mountain.

Macleod says once base camp is “cleaned up” the group will walk down the landslide-affected valley so they can be choppered out.

While the Everest expedition season is now over, Macleod says a planned excursion involving Hasler to Mt Makalu, the world’s fifth-highest peak, is still going ahead.

ed@scene.co.nz