Winter Climbs 2019: Search for Missing Climbers on Nanga Parbat Continues

We have a few updates regarding on the ongoing search for Daniele Nardi and Tom Ballard on Nanga Parbat. The two men have been out of contact since Sunday, prompting the start of a search and rescue operation on Wednesday. Those initial efforts were hampered due to the fact that the Pakistani government had grounded all flights because of the increasing tensions with India. Yesterday, helicopters were able to take to the air at last, but so far there has been no sign of either climber.

Leading the SAR efforts is Ali Sadpara, one of the most experienced high altitude climbers in Pakistan. He was part of the team that made the first winter ascent of Nanga Parbat a few years back, so he’s been helping direct the operation. Yesterday, Sadpara reported that while the helicopters swept the mountain they couldn’t see either Nardi or Ballard. They did however spot their tent at Camp 3, their last known location on the mountain. Ali reports that there was evidence of recent avalanche activity in the area as well, which may not bode well for their chances.

Over on K2, the Russian/Kazakh/Kyrgyzstan team was initially prepared to lend a hand in the search efforts but have now had a change of heart. The squad is in Base Camp right now due to poor weather on that mountain, but they have informed Pakistani officials that due to the high danger of avalanches the team has decided to sit this one out. The other team on K2, led by Alex Txikon, have stepped up to the plate however, with Txikon himself, along with Ignacio de Zuloaga, Pawel Dunaj and Dr. Josep Sanchez standing by to assist. The problem is, less than ideal conditions and limitations to civilian flights are making it difficult to collect them from K2 BC at the moment.

Reportedly a Pakistani SAR team arrived on Nanga Parbat today and have begun working their way up the mountain. The problem is, that team is not acclimated to the altitude, so they could suffer their own challenges. That is part of the reason that the K2 teams make the best choice for this mission since they are already accustomed to the thinner air at altitude and would be able to move faster. They also have three drones that could help with the search too.

So that’s where things stand at the moment. Nardi and Ballard are still missing and the helicopters have seen no sign of them. That said, the rescue teams have not given up hope and are attempting to reach points higher on the mountain as soon as possible to continue the search on the ground. Let’s hope they can get their in time.

I’ll post more updates as warranted.

Kraig Becker

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