(USA TODAY) -- An avalanche has left 12 dead and four missing in the worst-ever recorded disaster on Mount Everest.
With peak season just days away on the deadly mountain, Sherpas and guides are busy preparing for the trek up the highest peak in the world.
"The Sherpa guides were carrying up equipment and other necessities for climbers when the disaster happened," a spokesman for Nepal's Tourism Ministry, Mohan Krishna Sapkota, told the AFP news agency.
Before a climber begins the assent, hired Sherpas set up camps at higher altitudes and fix routes and ropes on the slopes above.
The Sherpa guides had gone early in the morning to fix ropes when the avalanche hit just them below Camp 2 at about 6:30 a.m., Nepal Tourism Ministry official Krishna Lamsal said from the base camp where he is monitoring rescue efforts.
Survivor Dawa Tashi was airlifted to Katmandu and was lying in the intensive care unit at Grande Hospital in Katmandu with suffered several broken ribs.
Tashi told his visiting relatives that the Sherpa guides were delayed because of the unsteady path. Suddenly the avalanche fell on the group and buried many of them, Tashi's sister-in-law Dawa Yanju told the Associated Press.
Hundreds have died attempting to reach the peak, many of them Sherpas. The Sherpa people are one of the main ethnic groups in Nepal's alpine region and many make their living as climbing guides on Everest and other Himalayan peaks.
Before this avalanche, the worst recorded disaster on Everest had been a snowstorm on May 11, 1996, that killed eight climbers. Six Nepalese guides were killed in an avalanche in 1970.
More than 4,000 climbers have scaled the summit since 1953, when it was first conquered by New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay.
Ang Tshering of the Nepal Mountaineering Association said the area where the avalanche hit is nicknamed the "popcorn field" and is just below Camp 2 at 21,000 feet.
As soon as the avalanche hit, rescuers and fellow climbers rushed to help.
Two Sherpas who were injured were taken by helicopter to hospitals in Nepal's capital, Katmandu.