Two Italian climbers were plucked to safety in a high-altitude helicopter rescue after days stranded on one of the world's highest mountains, officials said. Walter Nones and Simon Kehrer had been struggling to descend from Nanga Parbat Mountain since July 16, when fellow climber Karl Unterkircher fell to his death in a crevasse.
Nones and Kehrer had been stranded at about 21,600 feet (6,600 meters) on the 26,810-foot (8,125-meter) peak.
Tourism official Shaukat Zaman said the helicopter, operated by a military-run rescue service, retrieved the two climbers on Thursday and they were being transported to the region's main town of Gilgit. Askari Aviation confirmed the operation on its Web site. It said rescuers spotted and rescued Kehrer first and then retrieved Nones. Mountain rescue official Ilyas Mirza said the climbers had managed to descend to below about 19,600 feet (6,000 meters) to facilitate the rescue. Thin air makes it too risky for helicopters to fly any higher.
Bad weather prevented an attempt on Wednesday but two choppers flew to the expedition's base camp on Thursday to try again. Rashid Ahmad, a representative of a local tour company that supported the Italians' expedition, said the mountaineers may stay for a day or two in Gilgit before leaving for the capital of Islamabad.
Nanga Parbat is the world's ninth-highest peak, and in the Urdu-language it means "Naked Mountain." It is also known as "Killer Mountain" because many climbers have died while trying scale it.
Northern Pakistan's spectacular mountains, including the world's second-highest, K-2, are popular with international climbers. In August 2005, a Pakistani army helicopter rescued a Slovene mountaineer, Tomaz Humar after he was stranded for a week on Nanga Parbat from a height of 22,000 feet (6,670 meters). The army described it as one of the highest rescue missions ever. Slovenia presented the two army pilots with the country's highest award for bravery.