‘Bodies’ of five climbers spotted on Nanda Devi

Wednesday 05th June 2019 06:20 EDT

Aerial survey teams, searching for the eight mountaineers who went missing on their way to a peak near Nanda Devi East, spotted what they said appeared to be the bodies of the missing climbers. Five “bodies” were sighted near an unscaled peak the team was attempting to summit, officials said, adding that the climbers were probably hit by an avalanche. They were part of a international team of 12, led by well-known British climber Martin Moran, that had set off from Munsyari on May 13 and was scheduled to return to base camp on May 26.

An Indian Air Force chopper carrying two team members, Zachary Quaint and Marc Thomas, who were evacuated from the base camp, did an aerial survey of the valley from where the trekkers had gone missing a few days ago before they spotted the bodies. Pithoragarh district magistrate Vijay Kumar Jogdande said aerial pictures of the site had been taken. “Although the resolution is not good, we are certain there are some bodies there. The chances of survival of the missing climbers are very bleak now, as it appears that they were hit by an avalanche.”

Four from Britain missing

The climbers - four from Britain, two from the United States, and one each from Australia and India - were reported missing by colleagues after they failed to return to their base camp near Nanda Devi, India's second highest mountain. A team of mountaineers is ready to mount a rescue if the climbers are found, but it would take at least a week to reach the area where they are believed to have gone missing. The party was attempting to climb an unnamed, previously unclimbed 6,477 metre (21,250 feet) peak near Nanda Devi when their route was hit by a "sizeable avalanche", the company that organised the expedition, Moran Mountain, said.

Deadly season

Along with its air force, India has deployed elite paramilitary units to help with the search. It has been one of the deadliest climbing seasons in the Himalayas for several years. More than 20 people have been killed in the mountains, including 11 on Mount Everest, the world's highest peak that has been plagued by poor weather, inexperienced climbers and overcrowding.

Nanda Devi and its sister mountain, Nanda Devi East, are among the world's most challenging peaks and only a handful of people have climbed them. The leader of the missing group, Martin Moran, was the first person to summit Changuch, another peak in the area, and was known as a "godfather" of guiding in the Himalayas, according to a video diary of Rob Jarvis, who accompanied him on that expedition in 2009.

Many of the other missing climbers are veterans but with little experience of Nanda Devi and its surrounding peaks. Indian authorities have identified the eight missing as Moran, John McLaren, Rupert Whewell and Richard Payne, all from Britain, Anthony Sudekum and Ronald Beimel from the United States, Ruth McCance from Australia, and liason officer Chetan Pandey from the Indian Mountaineering Foundation.

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