Military helicopters find no trace of climbers
Military helicopters have found no trace of two climbers missing on the world’s ninth highest mountain.
Tom Ballard, whose mother died on K2, was climbing Nanga Parbat in Pakistan with Italian Daniele Nardi when they lost contact a week ago.
Two military helicopters took off from the northern town of Skardu with four Spanish rescuers onboard on Monday.
Karrar Haidri, secretary of the Alpine Club of Pakistan, said that Spaniard Alex Txikon and three colleagues, including a physician, are joining Pakistani mountaineer Ali Sadpara, who is already at base camp.
The helicopters found no trace of the climbers, however Mr Haidri hopes the improved weather will allow the rescue team to search during the day.
He said: “It’s very difficult to survive in that condition and it’s a big challenge for a mountaineer to climb in winter.”
Later on Monday he said: “Unfortunately, no sign of climbers or a camp site was found during the aerial reconnaissance.”
Rescuers also plan to use a drone in their search efforts amid the harsh weather.
Italian ambassador Stefano Pontecorvo tweeted that the team reached Camp 1 and was setting up necessary equipment to fly the drones as visibility was good.
He tweeted a picture of a helicopter on the snow-covered ground, with the message: “Area around Camp 1 on Mummery Ridge, #NangaParbat this afternoon with dropping off @AlexTxikon and his team to start the search for @NardiDaniele and Tom Ballard.
“Ali Sadpara also there to assist the effort. We are all with you brave people.”
Mr Ballard was born in Derbyshire but moved to the Scottish Highlands in 1995, the year his mother, Alison Hargreaves, died on K2 when she was 33, months after becoming the first woman to conquer Everest unaided.
Friends of the climbers have raised more than £109,682 towards the search effort in two days through a GoFundMe page.
The target of the fundraiser is 150,000 euros (£128,500).
A message on the page states: “We are so grateful for everyone who has led these rescue efforts on the ground.
“The helicopter rescue operation costs roughly 50,000 euros (£42,846) per day. Donations to help support these costs are graciously appreciated.
“Any unused donations will be donated to the schools of Pakistan where Daniele has regularly donated school materials and medicine on this and past expeditions.”
Despite being dubbed “Killer Mountain” because of its dangerous conditions, the summit of Nanga Parbat has long drawn climbers.
Located in Pakistan’s Gilgit Baltistan area, it is the ninth highest mountain in the world at 8,126 metres (26,660 feet).
Nardi and Ballard set out on the climb on February 22, making it to the fourth base camp by the following day.
The pair last made contact on February 24 from an elevation of around 6,300 metres (nearly 20,700 feet) on Nanga Parbat.
Pakistan dispatched search helicopters last week despite the closure of its airspace amid tensions with neighbouring India over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.
Sadpara, who joined the search team, saw a snow-covered tent on Thursday.
Nardi’s team had said in a Facebook post that traces of an avalanche were evident in the area.
Nardi, 42, from near Rome, has attempted the Nanga Parbat summit in winter several times in the past.
In 2015 Ballard became the first person ever to solo climb all six major north faces of the Alps in one winter.