Nepal has called off the search for local climbing guides still missing after a deadly avalanche on Mount Everest killed at least 13 sherpas.

Rescuers have retrieved the bodies of 13 sherpa guides and rescued nine others since an ice and snow avalanche slammed into their expedition on Friday morning on the world's highest peak.

Authorities have ruled out any hope of finding more survivors, and with bad weather hampering efforts, they have now decided to end the search for the three guides who are assumed to be buried.

"We have decided to stop the search for the missing. We have been unable to identify the location of bodies and at this stage it is difficult to find them in the snow," Dipendra Paudel, a tourism ministry official, told the AFP news agency.

The guides were among a large party that left Everest's base camp before dawn, carrying tents, food and ropes to prepare routes for international clients before the main climbing season starts later this month.

The avalanche hit them at an altitude of about 5,800 metres in an area nicknamed the "popcorn field" due to ice boulders on the route, which leads into the treacherous Khumbu Icefall.

Dozens of guides were on the move when a huge block of ice broke off from a hanging glacier, before splitting into smaller chunks and barrelling down into the icefall, one of the most dangerous areas en route to the summit.

More than 300 people, most of them local guides, have died on Everest since the first ascent to the summit by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953.

Source: Agencies