Rescuers ‘hoping for miracle’ in search for British climber in Pakistan
Rescuers searching for a British climber missing in Pakistan are hoping for a miracle, the country’s Italian ambassador has said.
Tom Ballard, who was born in Derbyshire but had moved to the Highlands, was reported missing on Nanga Parbat earlier this week with Italian Daniele Nardi.
They had been climbing the peak, nicknamed Killer Mountain, and lost contact on Sunday.
Italian ambassador Stefano Pontecorvo also told the Press Association the pair had initially been joined by two Pakistani climbers who reached Camp 3 on the 8,126-metre (26,660ft) mountain before turning back.
Mr Pontecorvo said: “Of course I’m hopeful of finding them, of course I might also realise it’s been since the 24th til the 1st of March, there have been avalanches, there have been three days of very bad weather.
“Both Daniele and Tom are tough guys. We hope for a miracle… and just try our best to find them.
“Originally the expedition… was supposed to be four people: Daniele Nardi, Tom Ballard and two Pakistani climbers who got up to Camp 3 then turned back because they thought it was too dangerous. Daniele and Tom continued the climb.
“I’m talking to the British Embassy and keeping them informed of what we’re doing. We’re doing fine. If we need something we’ll ask for it and they are very helpful. We have good co-operation here.”
Temperatures on the mountain are said to be at least minus 40C, with winds ranging from 120mph to 200mph.
Initial search plans were prevented on Thursday when Pakistan closed its air space after it shot down two Indian military planes, but two army helicopters were eventually drafted in.
Russian mountaineers on K2 offered to support the rescue mission on Friday, with flights scheduled after an agreement was reached with the Italian embassy and the Pakistani air force.
However the weather was deemed too dangerous, but Pontecorvo said he is hopeful the search can continue again on Saturday.
He said: “What happened during the night is the Russian team with whom I have been in contact with found it was too dangerous to try (and find the men) on foot.
“The second option is Alex Txikon, the Basque climber who had two years ago been on Nanga Parbat, has a team of three people with him – among them a doctor – and he also has these three drones with cameras and equipment to pick up traces of life.
“Today the weather was certainly not flyable from Nanga Parbat to K2 and back. Tomorrow we hope to do that – bring him over with his equipment and he will be based in basecamp and fly his drones over the area that both Nardi and Ballard could be found.
“If they find something then we’ll have to go and get them.
“It is a complicated process. Yesterday we got special permission to fly. Unfortunately the helicopter with a Pakistani mountaineer on board could not find any traces. Today it was not possible, we’ll try tomorrow.”
Mr Ballard moved to Scotland in the same year his mother, Alison Hargreaves, died on K2 when she was 33.
Sandy Allan, a family friend of Mr Ballard’s from Newtonmore in the Highlands, has climbed Nanga Parbat twice and said he is worried about the “competent mountaineer”.
He told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “I knew Tom when he was younger and I’d climbed with him and his mother, Tom’s an exceptional climber, he’s not done a great deal in the Himalayas but he’s done enough to know how to look after himself very well.
“Some people thought Tom was a little bit of a loner but he climbed to a very high standard and I suppose a lot of his routes were quite esoteric.
“But he’s a normal human being with a passion for climbing.
“It’s a lot colder and that makes it incredibly uncomfortable but if you’re a climber like Tom, it’s one of the big challenges for people to do so I can understand why he’d want to go there.”