Hopes are fading for two European climbers missing on their way to the world’s ninth-highest peak in Pakistan-administered Kashmir after an intense search operation produced no leads on Monday.
Pakistani military helicopters, that were earlier grounded by bad weather, scoured the peak of Nanga Parbat – at 8,126 metres – for signs of Italian Daniele Nardi and Scotsman Tom Ballard, who have now been missing for more than a week.
The pair last made contact on February 24 from an elevation of around 6,300 metres at the summit of what is known as the “killer mountain” because of the dangerous conditions.
Two helicopters flew a Spanish climbing team from the base of K2 – the world’s second-highest mountain – to Nanga Parbat on Monday afternoon to look for the missing climbers, according to a top army aviation official.
He said the helicopters carried out an aerial search with the help of mountaineer Rehmatullah Baig, who was climbing with the missing men before turning back, but could not find anything.
“The helicopters flew for more than 30 minutes in the targeted area but there was no sign of life,” the official told the AFP news agency, requesting anonymity.
Baig said the Spanish team would begin a search with drones on Tuesday.
‘Two tough guys’
The search was delayed last week because rescue teams were forced to wait for permission to send a helicopter after Pakistan closed its airspace on Wednesday amid escalating tensions with neighbouring India over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.
Ballard is the son of British mountaineer Alison Hargreaves, the first woman to scale Mount Everest alone and without bottled oxygen. She died in 1995, aged 33, while descending the summit of K2, also part of the Himalayas.
Nardi, 42, from near Rome, has attempted the Nanga Parbat summit in winter several times in the past.
Ballard, 30, is a skilled climber who in 2015 became the first person to solo climb all six major north faces of the Alps in one winter.
About 121,661 euros ($137,835) have been raised to keep funding a helicopter search team, which is estimated to cost about 50,000 euros ($56,647) a day, the BBC reported.