Two American climbers missing after an avalanche hit a Himalayan peak died of suffocation after being buried under feet of snow, the leader of the expedition said Monday.
Debbie Marshall, 31, of Glenwood Springs, Colo., and Rich Davidson, 46, of Los Alamos, N.M., were killed Friday while climbing Mount Annapurna IV in northwestern Nepal, said Cleve Armstrong, leader of the expedition.
Armstrong, 54, survived a harrowing night of heavy snow to be rescued Sunday by a Nepalese army helicopter crew and taken to Katmandu for treatment. He was badly dehydrated and suffered internal bleeding after trying to scale the 24,715-foot mountain.
He said the avalanche struck between 4:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. as the team was resting after working on the most technically difficult portion of the climb between camps at 14,500 feet and 21,000 feet.
“They had suffocated in their sleep. … The heavy snow collapsed their tent,” said Armstrong.
He said he had tried to dig through the snow around the tents to reach the two climbers, but it was too deep.
“Hoping to hear any sign of life, I dug out the snow frantically,” he said. “I reached Rich’s body and felt that he had no pulse and saw black blood coming out of his mouth.”
Nearby, he said, he found Marshall’s body in the same state and called the base camp by radio to report the bad news.
Armstrong said he survived by continuously digging out the snow that was falling around his tent.
Marshall last spoke to her husband and 1-1/2-year-old child on Sept. 16, the day the team left for Nepal.
“It was supposed to be an easy mountain, very low-risk,” her husband, Chuck Marshall, said in Denver. “Debbie’s not one of those who goes out and finds a dangerous mountain to climb.”