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Mohammad Ali Sadpara and his two colleagues during their search for the missing mountaineers. — Dawn
Mohammad Ali Sadpara and his two colleagues during their search for the missing mountaineers. — Dawn

ISLAMABAD/GILGIT: Army helicopters could not fly for search and rescue of the missing climbers due to bad weather on Saturday with a three-member expedition on ground hardly climbing beyond camp 1.

Italy’s Daniel Nardi and Tom Ballard from Britain went missing on Nanga Parbat last Sunday, said the Alpine Club of Pakistan (ACP).

“It is still not clear what happened and how the two climbers went missing. There is a possibility that they might have been hit by an avalanche. But due to heavy snowfall, signs of an avalanche were not visible,” said ACP Secretary Karrar Haidri.

On Friday, the army helicopters were able to spot a broken tent and some debris buried under snow.

Ali Mohammad from the Alpine Adventure Guides, the tour operator company managing the expedition on the 8,126 metres high peak, told Dawn on Saturday that had the weather cleared, the helicopters would have flown to the K2 base camp to pick up four members from the Russian-Kazakh-Kyrgyz expedition.

The climbers from the Russian-Kazakh-Kyrgyz team have volunteered to assist in the search and rescue operation for the missing climbers, he added.

Italy’s Daniel Nardi and Tom Ballard from Britain went missing on Nanga Parbat about a week ago

In 2018, Tomasz Mankievicz perished on Nanga Parbat, but his partner, Elisabeth Revol, was rescued after volunteers from K2 abandoned their own climb to assist in the emergency, Mr Mohammad said.

“However, weather conditions are expected to worsen in the next few days. The ground team attempted to climb higher from camp I at 5,000 metres but were forced to return after extreme cold wrapped around the 8,126 metres peak, making visibility poor,” he said, adding that the rescuers also faced the risk of an avalanche.

However, the Alpine Club of Pakistan said the K2 team had drones that would be used to locate the missing climbers.

Drones were also used last year for the first time to locate a missing climber on Broad Peak.

The two missing climbers were attempting to summit Nanga Parbat in the winter season.

The search operation is still on due to the pressure of the loved ones of the missing climbers, the ACP said.

Meanwhile, famous Pakistani mountaineer Mohammad Ali Sadpara continued his foot search for the missing climbers on the second consecutive day on Saturday.

Spanish mountaineer Alex Txikon and his team could not arrive at the Nanga Parbat base camp from the K2 base camp to initiate a drone search following bad weather.

Ali Sadpara through satellite communication told Dawn on Saturday that through helicopter reconnaissance on Thursday they just sighted one side of the mountaineers’ camp which was under avalanche debris.

Video footage on entire Mummery Spur from 5,100 metres to 7,000 metres could not find any clue to the collapsed orange/red tent in snow.

Ali Sadpara said weather at Nanga Parbat was bad and there was high snowfall and winds.

“We went up a few kilometres to continue our foot search but returned to the base camp,” Mr Sadpara added.

He said they were in contact with the Italian embassy and families of the missing mountaineers and were planning to continue the search through drones.

Italian Ambassador in Pakistan Stefano Pontecorvo, in a tweet, said weather conditions on Saturday did not allow the planned search and rescue operation for the missing mountaineers.

“Tomorrow morning conditions should be better and that’s when the rescue team will try again.”

This was the fifth attempt of Nardi to scale Nanga Parbat through Mummery Spur route.

“I was with him in two attempts to scale the peak through Kinshofer Wall route,” said Ali Sadpara.

Published in Dawn, March 2nd, 2019