Search resumes for climbers missing on Pakistani mountain

The search has resumed for two European climbers missing for more than a week 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 on February 24.

The search resumed on Tuesday, involving four Spanish rescuers who were flown to the area by military helicopter on Monday, when they joined Pakistani mountaineer Ali Sadpara who was waiting at base camp.

Aerial reconnaissance on Monday found no trace of the climbers, however Karrar Haidri, secretary of the Alpine Club of Pakistan, said that there is still hope as in some instances in the past, missing climbers were “miraculously rescued” after a long time.

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Italian Ambassador Stefano Pontecorvo said that the climbers are “two tough guys” and he hopes they can be found alive.

He said: “It’s been a week. There are known cases of mountaineers who had survived for longer than that.”

But he also acknowledged that the summit is a “very difficult” one.

He said two Pakistani mountaineers were with the missing pair but had decided to turn back because they thought it was too dangerous.

On Tuesday he tweeted a picture of the area and wrote: “Search ops for @NardiDaniele and Tom Ballard under way this morning.

“Search party @AlexTxikon, Ali Sadpara, Felix Criado, Ramat Ullah Baig. Grateful to have such impressive guys on the job. Plan is to reach Camp 3 and search the surroundings also with the help of the drones.”

Mr Ballard, 30, 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 £115,244 towards the search effort in two days through a GoFundMe page.

The target of the fundraiser is 150,000 euros (£128,500).

Alison Hargreaves
Alison Hargreaves

Mountain guide Sandy Allan, who has climbed with Hargreaves and knows Ballard, said he remains hopeful but admitted to having some “negative thoughts” after Monday’s rescue flights failed to locate the pair.

He said: “I think people are getting really worried and very sad about the whole thing.

“He and his mother were very popular people. He was a little bit quiet, kept to himself, had some secret projects that he kept quiet, like all us climbers, but he was sociable and popular. I think most people liked him a lot.”

Allan said it was discouraging that the helicopter flights found nothing because if the two were alive in a snow cave they would likely have heard the helicopter and gone out to try to flag it down.

He said the missing climbers’ situation becomes “more and more precarious” by the hour because of the extreme cold and wind.

Located in Pakistan’s Gilgit Baltistan area, Nanga Parbat, dubbed “Killer Mountain”, is the ninth highest mountain in the world at 8,126 metres (26,660 feet).

Nardi, 42, 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.