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Hope fades for missing climbers

October 05, 2015

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ISLAMABAD: Hopes that the three climbers who went missing on Sarwali Peak may be found have diminished after a month-long search effort.

“A climber can survive 48 hours maximum, depending on the level of fitness, in extreme weather conditions,” Alpine Club of Pakistan (ACP) press secretary Karrar Haidri told Dawn. He said a team was still there searching for the expedition.

Professional rock climbers Imran Junaidi, Usman Khalid and Khurram Shehzad were attempting to climb the 6,326 metre tall peak in the Kashmir Valley. They had reached 4,700 metres when they reported back to the base camp.

The expedition left Islamabad on August 22, according to expedition sponsors. On August 26, the three-member expedition headed up from base camp, and remained in contact with the camp until the night of August 31.

From the advance camp, the climbers reported that they were going behind the mountain, and were likely to lose contact.

They had informed that they would return to the base camp on September 4. However, seven days later it was reported that the climbers had gone missing and a search operation was launched.

The press secretary said communication gear carried by the climbers, such as walkie talkies, did not work in the area. On September 9, military helicopter pilots performed four sorties but could not trace them.

“The army helicopters flew for two days, hoping to find them,” Haidri said.

While their relatives are still hopeful that their loved ones are alive and well, the APC has speculated that the three climbers might have disappeared in an avalanche.

According to an ACP official, two feet of fresh snow has covered tracks and crevices and the winter season draws closer, hiding any clues that could locate the climbers.

Another search team has continued the efforts to locate the group. It has now expanded its search to nearby peaks and villages.

“We are doing as much as we can to find the climbers,” Haidri said.

Published in Dawn, October 5th, 2015

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