‘Silhouettes’ spotted on Nanga Parbat during search for missing climbers

Updated March 09, 2019

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The team had reached the village of Ser when Alex Txikon reported that he had seen two unidentified silhouettes.  — AFP/File
The team had reached the village of Ser when Alex Txikon reported that he had seen two unidentified silhouettes. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: A rescue team will on Saturday be conducting one possibly final search for two British and Italian climbers who went missing on the Nanga Parbat 13 days ago, after some silhouettes were spotted on the mountain.

Soon after Italian climber Daniele Nardi and British mountaineer Tom Ballard went missing, Spanish mountaineer Alex Txikon and other climbers gave up their own winter summit attempt on K2 and volunteered to search for the missing climbers.

The search had been called off and the team had reached the village of Ser when Alex Txikon reported that he had seen two unidentified silhouettes on the Diamir face of the mountain and that one last search should be conducted, the Alpine Club of Pakistan (ACP) said on Friday.

“Weather and military priorities permitting, they will fly again on Saturday, pick up the ground team from Ser Village for one more aerial reconnaissance mission in the area of the avalanche to investigate Alex Txikon’s report that he identified two silhouettes,” ACP Secretary Karrar Haidri said.

Mr Haidri said that reports had surfaced a day ago that the search had been called off. He explained that though it had been ramped down, it was not entirely accurate to say that the search for the missing climbers was over.

“Alex Txikon kept inspecting the Diamir face of the 8,126 metre peak through a telescope. He reported spotting two unidentified shapes on the mountain and though it is not clear what they may be- tents, rags- the ground search party has called for a helicopter,” he said.

The club said the two veteran climbers were possible hit by an avalanche on Camp II, some 6,000 metres high on Nanga Parbat’s Diamir face.

Avalanche debris and broken tents were seen during an aerial reconnaissance mission last week. Fresh snow covered signs of an avalanche in the days that followed.

The bad weather- extreme cold and poor visibility- created problems for ground search teams, army helicopters engaged in aerial search for the two missing climbers could not fly either.

At the end of the over-flight on Saturday, the team will evaluate the situation and decide how to proceed, ACP said.

Published in Dawn, March 9th, 2019