Winter Climbs 2019: Search Continues on Nanga Parbat, K2 Team Reaches Camp 2

Another day has passed on Nanga Parbat and still no sign of missing climbers Daniele Nardi and Tom Ballard. Yesterday, rescuers continued to sweep the mountain in helicopters looking for signs of the two men, while also using drones to widen their search area.

But after hours scanning their route on the Mummery Spur, there is still no sign of where they are or what could have happened to them. To date, the only indication that they were there at all is a tent that was found late last week, swept down the mountain in an avalanche.

Late in the day, a four-man team set off up the mountain. That group includes Alex Txikon, Muhammad Ali Sadpara, Felix Criado, and Rahmat Ullah Baig who reached Camp 2 on Nanga Parbat but still have found nothing.

The plan is for them to ascend up to C3 today, which would put them at the base of the Mummery Spur, Nardi and Ballard’s targeted route to the top. It is unlikely that they’ll go much higher than that, as it is tough, technical route that is prone to avalanches. So much so that Italian climber Simone Moro has described climbing it in winter as “suicidal.”

With each passing day hope for the missing men fades even further. It has now been more than ten days says they were last heard from, which is an eternity on an 8000-meter peak under the best of conditions, let alone in winter. At this point, the search and rescue operation is likely turning into a potential recovery operation, although even that seems unlikely at this stage. It is hard to imagine any kind of miracle that would allow Daniele and Tom to be alive on that mountain.

To add to the tragedy for Tom’s friends and family, is mother was famed mountaineer Alison Hargreaves. Back in 1995, she became the first woman to summit Everest without the use of supplemental oxygen. Three months later she passed away on K2, which is a little more than 100 miles (160 km) from where her son is now currently missing.

Over on K2, the Russian/Kazakh/Kyrgyatanian team continue their summit push. They reached Camp 2 yesterday and hope to press on to C3 today. From there, they’ll eye a climb up the Black Pyramid, where the team will return to the higher point they’ve reached so far, which is approximately 7300 meters (23,950 ft).

At that point, they’ll be keeping a very close eye on the weather and the route. If it is safe, they’ll try to push higher and on towards the summit. But if poor weather returns or the risk of avalanche is too high, they’ll retreat back to Base Camp once more. After that, they’ll be heading home, as the team has already said this will be their last summit push.

Normally, an attempt on the summit of K2 in winter would be big news, but considering the events unfolding on Nanga Parbat it is taking a backseat for now. I’ll post more updates when there is news to share.

Kraig Becker