FILE - In this undated file photo, the snow-capped mountain of Nanga Parbat is seen in northern Pakistan. A Pakistani mountaineering official says military helicopters could not drop off four Spanish rescuers to search for a missing pair of European climbers because of heavy snowing. (AP Photo/Musaf Zaman Kazmi, File)

Search finds no sign of Italian, Briton on Pakistan summit

March 06, 2019 - 5:34 am

ISLAMABAD (AP) — A Pakistani mountaineering official said another day of searching for a pair of European climbers who went missing on the world's ninth-highest mountain produced no results on Wednesday as the risk of avalanches made the mission increasingly dangerous.

Hopes faded further for finding Italian Daniele Nardi and Briton Tom Ballard, missing for over a week on Nanga Parbat, known as "Killer Mountain," a Pakistani official said, appealing for prayers for the two.

Nardi, 42, from near Rome, has attempted the Nanga Parbat summit in winter several times in the past. Ballard, 30, also a skilled climber, in 2015 became the first person to solo climb all six major north faces of the Alps in one winter.

The two set out on Feb. 22, making it to the fourth base camp the following day. The pair last made contact on Feb. 24 from an elevation of some 6,300 meters (nearly 20,700 feet) on Nanga Parbat.

The search team, headed by Spaniard Alex Txikon and experienced Pakistani mountaineer Ali Sadpara familiar with the peak, has been going out on foot and using drones to search for the climbers.

Ballard's disappearance on the peak of 8,126 meters (26,660 feet) has Scotland particularly hard because he is the son of Alison Hargreaves, the first woman to scale Mount Everest alone. Ballard was born in England and grew up in the Scottish Highlands.

Hargreaves died at age 33 while descending the summit of K2, which is part of the Karakoram range on the border of Pakistan, India and China. The Karakoram range is among a complex of ranges including the Himalayas.

Karrar Haidri, the secretary of the Alpine Club of Pakistan, said on Wednesday that the search team used a drone extensively but "unfortunately, no sign of the climbers was found."

He said they were looking for a miracle and that "hope still runs high" among the climbers' friends and families.

Italian Ambassador Stefano Pontecorvo tweeted that the search resumed Wednesday, again with drones being used, and shared photos of the snow-covered mountain. Heavy recent snowfall has raised fears that the climbers might have perished.

Bad weather last week twice forced the search teams to halt the operation but search Pakistani military helicopters flew even after Pakistan shut its airspace over an escalation with neighboring India over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.

Haidri said the search would continue on Thursday and that "prayers are needed for the climbers."

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