Pakistan army searching for British climber amid air space shutdown

The Pakistan army has launched a helicopter search for a British climber missing on a mountain after commercial air space was closed amid military tensions with India.

Tom Ballard, from Derbyshire, whose mother died on K2 in 1995, has been reported missing on Nanga Parbat, nicknamed Killer Mountain.

He had been climbing with Italian Daniele Nardi and the pair were making an ascent before they lost contact.

Plans for an initial search operation were prevented when Pakistan closed its air space after it shot down two Indian military planes, but two army helicopters were drafted in on Thursday.

The Italian ambassador in Pakistan, Stefano Pontecorvo, told the Press Association a search was authorised after talks with the military’s aviation commander.

He said a team of Russian volunteers currently on K2, about 120 miles away, could also be transported to Nanga Parbat to help the search.

“I talked personally to the commander of the army aviation who gave the authorisation,” Mr Pontecorvo said.

“Notwithstanding there is a no-fly zone, the army helicopters are flying. They are surveying the areas in which Daniele Nardi and Tom Ballard should be.”

Thomas Drew, the British high commissioner to Pakistan, was also involved in the talks to begin search and rescue attempts.

Mr Pontecorvo said: “The army is very committed.”

A statement on Mr Nardi’s official Facebook page, posted on Thursday in Italian, said an initial reconnaissance flight failed to find the climbers.

(Facebook/Nardi/PA)
(Facebook/Daniele Nardi/PA)

The helicopter returned to a nearby heliport to refuel ahead of a planned second search, the statement said.

Ali Sadpara, a Pakistani mountaineer who has previously climbed Nanga Parbat, is also aiding the search.

The climbers last made contact with their team on Sunday when they reached around 20,670ft.

The Foreign Office said it is working with Pakistani authorities.

Alison Hargreaves on the slopes of K2
Alison Hargreaves on the slopes of K2 (PA)

Mr Ballard’s mother, Alison Hargreaves, died on K2 aged 33, months after becoming the first woman to climb Mount Everest unaided.