Winter Climbs 2019: K2 Team Joins the Search on Nanga Parbat

The search for the two missing climber on Nanga Parbat resumed today after poor weather kept helicopters grounded over the weekend. Improved conditions also allowed one of the teams on K2 to join in the rescue efforts, providing climbers who are more acclimated to the altitude to lend a hand. But now, more than week after Daniele Nardi and Tom Ballard were last heard from, hope begins to fade.

Daniele and Tom’s home team haven’t heard from them since last Sunday when they called in from Camp 3 on Nanga Parbat to announce that they were launching a summit bid. After that, they moved up higher on the slopes and haven’t been seen or been in communications since. Search efforts were launched in the middle of last week, but were hampered by a number of challenges, including bad weather and grounded flights due to the current political status between Pakistan and India. Once helicopter flights were cleared, Pakistani mountaineer Muhammad Ali Sadpara –– who knows Nanga Parbat well –– helped lead the way, but so far they’ve only spotted a tent amidst what appears to be avalanche remnants.

Four climbers from the Spanish/Polish team led by Alex Txikon on K2 have been flown to Base Camp on Nanga Parbat to lend a hand with the search and rescue operations. Those climbers bring three drones with them to help sweep the mountain to look for signs of life, but more importantly they have been acclimatizing on K2 since January, so they are better suited for moving faster at altitude. If any signs of the missing men are found, they will most likely be the ones pressed into action to help bring them down.

That said, several helicopter flights were conducted around the mountain this morning and as of this writing there has been no trace of the two men. While there is still some home that they could be stranded somewhere on Nanga Parbat, the reality is that after a week on the mountain the chances of them being found alive are increasingly small. It would take a miracle at this point to find them alive, but the search and rescue teams –– not to mention Daniele and Tom’s friends and family –– aren’t ready to concede their fates just yet.

Meanwhile, back on K2 the Russian/Kazakh/Kyrgyatanian team is on the move and attempting one last summit push. As of today, they’re in Camp 1 and looking towards a weather window later in the week to possibly give them access to the summit. The team has already announced that this will be their last go at a potential summit, as they’ve been on the mountain for more than two months, and depending on when you define the end of winter, their claims for the first winter ascent could have passed. We’ll be watching their progress closely over the next few days.

More updates as the news warrants.

Kraig Becker