Eight climbers missing in Indian Himalayas
Eight climbers, four from Britain, two from the US and one each from Australia and India, were reported missing last Friday, 31 May 2019, after they failed to return to their base camp near Nanda Devi, India’s second highest mountain. Indian authorities have been forced to call off a helicopter mission to recover the bodies of five missing climbers believed to have been killed in an avalanche high in the Himalayas. Military helicopters set off at dawn from Munsiyari in Uttarakhand in an attempt to retrieve the bodies but the operation had to be postponed after high winds made it impossible to hover anywhere near the spot.
A rescue mission was launched and on Monday, 3 June 2019, an Indian air force helicopter spotted five bodies partially buried in snow high on a slope. The status of the other three climbers is not known, though officials have said the possibility of their survival is remote. The plan was to drop mountaineers of the Indo-Tibetan border police force on to the ridge where the bodies were lying at an altitude of 5 000 metres but all three attempts failed.
“The weather forecast was favourable when they set off but at that high altitude it changes in a second. They got close enough to confirm that it is indeed five bodies, four together and one slightly further away but the helicopters couldn’t hover. It is too dangerous to try again,” said the local district magistrate, Vijar Kumar Logdande, in Uttarakhand.
He added that the bodies were no longer lying on the snow but embedded in ice, which will make it harder to retrieve them.
Contact with the eight climbers was lost on 26 May 2019. It is believed an avalanche, or several avalanches, hit the 7 816-metre mountain. Four other climbers who were also part of the group, led by the British mountaineer Martin Moran, were rescued on Sunday and have since been helping rescue efforts.
The eight people who remain missing were named by local authorities as Moran, John McLaren, Rupert Whewell and Richard Payne, all from the UK, Anthony Sudekum and Ronald Beimel from the US, Ruth McCance from Australia and Chetan Pandey, a guide from the Indian Mountaineering Foundation.
Logdande said officials and air force personnel were trying to work out an alternative plan to bring the bodies down to the nearest town of Pithoragarh. “I don’t know the technical details but it will have to be a combination of choppers and men on the ground. We will have to send mountaineers up there on foot and they will need to acclimatise to the high altitude. It’s going to take longer than we thought but we are working on it,” he said.
According to local media reports, the team had been given permission to climb Nanda Devi East, the smaller of the twin peaks known jointly as Nanda Devi but changed their plans and decided to climb a previously unclimbed peak.
Moran was known to be an experienced mountaineer and members of the Indian mountaineering community have been remembering him fondly. Stephen Alter, writing in the Indian Express, recalled Moran in a memoir of an earlier attempt to climb Nanda Devi. Alter said, “After working their way up a ridge of pinnacles, he and his partner had no choice but to turn back. Moran wrote: ‘Huge cornices forbade us to venture on the crest and we were forced on to the western flank where convex slopes slipped away into an abyss.’ Realising that it was suicidal to go on, his team retreated to Base Camp.”
The latest deaths come a week after a deadly climbing season at Mount Everest in which 11 people died amid overcrowding on the world’s highest peak.
Source: The Guardian