Search resumes for 2 European climbers missing in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan‘s military dispatched two helicopters Thursday despite closure of its airspace amid tensions with neighboring India to find a pair of climbers from Italy and Britain who went missing on a Himalayan peak, a mountaineering official said.

Karrar Haidri, secretary of Alpine Club of Pakistan, told The Associated Press that the search for the climbers will continue on Friday despite bad weather.

The climbers, Italian Daniele Nardi and Briton Tom Ballard, whose mother died on K2 in 1995, last made contact Sunday from around an elevation of some 6,300 meters (nearly 20,700 feet) on Nanga Parbat, slightly more than one-third up the 8,126-meter peak nicknamed Killer Mountain because of the dangerous conditions.

A Pakistani climber, Ali Sadpara, who joined the search team, saw a snow-covered tent of the climbers on Thursday, Haidri said. Nardi’s team said in a Facebook post that traces of an avalanche were evident in the area.

A Facebook post by Nardi’s team said Pakistan authorities sent a helicopter to search the Mummery Spur of Nanga Parbat for the climbers without result on Thursday.

On Wednesday, the search was temporarily suspended after Pakistan said its military shot down two Indian warplanes and captured a pilot, escalating tensions between the nuclear-armed rivals.

Since then the country’s air space is closed, but the military helicopters will continue the search for the climbers despite snowfall and strong winds, Haidri said.

Despite being known as “killer mountain” the Nanga Parbat peak has been an attraction for climbers from around the world who try to scale it.

Nardi, 42, from near Rome, has attempted the Nanga Parbat in winter several times in the past. Ballard, 30, is the son of British climber Alison Hargreaves, the first woman to scale Mount Everest alone who died at age 33 while descending the summit of K2. Ballard in 2015 became the first person ever to solo climb all six major north faces of the Alps in one winter.

Nardi’s team said that the alarm for the pair grew on Thursday after having no contact either by satellite phone or by base camp radio since Sunday. “The weather conditions are not good, there was fog, sleet and gusts of wind,” Nardi’s team wrote on Facebook Sunday.

The pair set out on the climb of Mummery Spur last Friday, making it to the fourth base camp, at about 6,000 meters, by Saturday. By Wednesday, the team speculated in a post that they were unable to communicate due to cloudy skies, which also blocked the view of the higher altitudes from base camp.

By Associated Press