The death toll, which included eight foreigners and a group of yak herders, was expected to rise with so many unaccounted for after unseasonal snowstorms brought by the tail end of cyclone Hudhud that struck eastern India last weekend.

A Facebook page set up on Wednesday to help friends and relatives trace loved ones trekking in Nepal quickly filled with concerned posts from the United States, Canada, Australia and South Korea.

 "The weather is good," said Baburam Bhandari, district governor of Mustang district, the area worst hit by the disaster. "One army helicopter has already left for the site and more helicopters will be pressed into service later."

Rescue teams are focused on the area around the Thorang-La area near Annapurna, the world's 10th highest mountain. Rescuers called off their search after light faded and blizzards set in on Wednesday.

The hikers' deaths come during the peak trekking season in Nepal, home to eight of the world's 14 highest mountain peaks, including Mount Everest.For the past two days, Nepal has been lashed by heavy rains brought on by the cyclone that has battered neighbouring India since last weekend.

The weather triggered blizzards at high altitudes. Ground teams of soldiers and police joined army helicopters looking for survivors or bodies.

Nepal's tourism industry is still recovering from the aftershocks of an ice avalanche that struck the lower reaches of Mount Everest in April, killing 16 guides in the worst disaster in the history of the world's highest peak.

More than a tenth of the nearly 800,000 tourists who visited Nepal in 2013 went hiking or mountain climbing, providing a key revenue stream for the aid-dependent nation, which relies on income from tourism for 4 percent of its gross domestic product.