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32-member team launches fresh ops for missing mountaineers headed for Nanda Devi east peak

Twelve mountaineers who had gone for an expedition to climb eastern peak of Nanda Devi, India’s second highest mountain have not returned to the base camp on the scheduled date of May 25.

india Updated: Jun 14, 2019 08:34 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Nainital
nanda devi,nanda devi trek,nanda devi trekkers
Twelve mountaineers had gone for an expedition to climb eastern peak of Nanda Devi, India’s second highest mountain. (Reuters file photo)

A 32-member team set off from Uttarakhand’s Pithoragarh on Thursday in search of the eight mountaineers, who were attempting to climb Nanda Devi East peak and went missing on May 25.

Vijay Kumar Jogdande, district magistrate, Pithoragarh, said the team comprising members from Indo-Tibetan Border Police, State Disaster Response Force and National Disaster Response Force left Pithoragarh town on Thursday morning for Munsiyari, about 132 km from the district headquarters. “On Friday, the team will be airlifted from Munsiyari, by an MH 17 helicopter and airdropped at Nanda Devi second base camp,” he said.

Jogdande said at the second base camp located at the height of 4,800 metres, the team members will undertake daily climbs to acclimatise for the next four to five days.

“Following their acclimatisation, the team will try for retrieving the bodies of the 8 missing mountaineers, including four Britishers, two Americans, one Indian and one Australian. They will try to retrieve these bodies located on the eastern slope of Nanda Devi at a height of around 5,000 metres, around 500 metres below the Nanda Devi East Peak,” he said.

Twelve mountaineers had gone for an expedition to climb eastern peak of Nanda Devi, India’s second highest mountain. The climbers had left Munsiyari on May 13 to climb Nanda Devi East but they did not return to the base camp on the scheduled date of May 25.

Four of them-Mark Thomas, Ian Wade, Kate Armstrong, and Zachary Quain- who had split from the main group were rescued on June 2 from Base Camp area. These four climbers told local officials on May 31 that their other team members had not returned as planned and that they were in touch with them until 26 May, a day before an avalanche hit the mountain.

Instead of Nanda Devi East Peak, these 8 mountaineers, led by an experienced British mountain guide, Martin Moran, planned to attempt ‘an unclimbed peak’ around 6,500 metres high, the officials said.

On June 3, rescuers onboard an Indian Air Force helicopter spotted the bodies of five of the eight mountaineers missing near an unnamed peak adjoining Nanda Devi East peak in Uttarakhand’s Pithoragarh district. The attempts to drop members of the search team by air to retrieve the bodies couldn’t be undertaken due to bad weather conditions in the area

Meanwhile the ground team of Indian Mountaineering Federation (IMF) is on its way from Pindari glacier side in Bageshwar district to reach the avalanche site to trace/retrieve the missing mountaineers. The team started their trek on June 11.

Ranjana Rajguru, district magistrate, Bageshwar, said the 14 member IMF team led by Dhruv Joshi was given permission by the district administration to undertake the search operation from Pindari glacier side.

“They had met me on June 11, before taking the trek. They told me that it will take them three to four days to reach the base camp, where they will acclimatise for three to four days before trying to climb the slope where the bodies are located. They haven’t informed us yet about their current location”, she said.

The eight missing mountaineers include John McLaren, Rupert Whewell, Richard Payne from Britain, Anthony Sudekum, Ronald Beimel, Australian Ruth McCance and Indian guide Chetan Pandey.

On June 2, the four mountaineers who had carried out the initial search of their remaining 8 climbers and were waiting at the Base Camp in Munsiyari area were airlifted to Pithoragarh by Indian Air Force helicopters.

On June 3, two of the rescued mountaineers were taken back to the area where the climbers had gone missing. They succeed in getting photographs in which they spotted 5 bodies after zooming in.

First Published: Jun 14, 2019 00:22 IST