The 2019 Himalaya climbing season may be over, but the bad news continues to come in across the region. Last week we had the news that 20 people lost their lives climbing in Nepal and Tibet this spring, 11 of which came on Everest alone. Now, the sad news comes our way that eight climbers are missing near Nanda Devi in India too.
The missing team consists of four Brits, two Americans, an Australian, and an Indian liaison officer. They had set out to climb an unnamed 6477-meter (21,250 ft) peak located near Nanda Devi on May 13. The expectation was that the group would summit sometime last week, but when they did not return to Base Camp search and rescue teams launched efforts to find them. For much of the past few days however, those efforts were hampered by high winds and heavy rains. Yesterday, they did spot a few pieces of climbing gear –– including a backpack and boots –– on the mountain, leading the SAR team to speculate that they were all caught in a massive avalanche.
The eight-person group originally consisted of 12 members, and was led by British mountain guide Martin Moran. When the team reached Nanda Devi East BC, they split into two smaller units, with four climbers setting out to climb that mountain, while the eight others went for the unnamed peak instead. The attempt on Nanda Devi East was turned back due to poor weather conditions, with those four climbers returning to BC a few days later. When their companions didn’t arrive back as expected on May 26, alarms went off. Authorities were alerted on May 31, with the four surviving members of the team assisting in search efforts.
The Nanda Devi region of India is considered to be one of the most beautiful mountain locations on the planet. The area is also home to numerous unclimbed, unnamed, and unexplored peaks, which makes it a popular draw for experienced climbers looking for a unique expedition experience. All of the members of the team had permits to attempt Nanda Devi East, but it is unclear if those permits extended to other peaks in the region as well.
At this point, the Search and Rescue team is saying that the chance of survival for any members of the team are pretty much nonexistent. Those efforts are continuing as the weather permits, but have shifted away from a rescue and towards a recovery operation instead. My condolences go out to the friends and family of the missing climbers. This only adds to what has already been a very rough year in the Himalaya and elsewhere.
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