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Search for British climber missing on Pakistani mountain set to resume

Tom Ballard was climbing with Italian Daniele Nardi when they lost contact a week ago.

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The scene part way along the Mazeno ridge in Pakistan with the summit of Nanga Parbat in the far distance (Sandy Allen/PA)

The scene part way along the Mazeno ridge in Pakistan with the summit of Nanga Parbat in the far distance (Sandy Allen/PA)

The scene part way along the Mazeno ridge in Pakistan with the summit of Nanga Parbat in the far distance (Sandy Allen/PA)

Military helicopters are attempting to fly rescuers to help search for a British climber missing on the world’s ninth highest mountain after heavy snow hampered efforts at the weekend.

Tom Ballard, whose mother died on K2, was climbing Nanga Parbat in Pakistan with Italian Daniele Nardi when they lost contact a week ago.

A Pakistani official said that two military helicopters will again try to fly four Spanish rescuers to search for the pair on Nanga Parbat on Monday.

Karrar Haidri, secretary of the Alpine Club of Pakistan, said that Spaniard Alex Txikon and three colleagues, including a physician, who are going to try to help find the missing climbers on “Killer Mountain”, will join Pakistani mountaineer Ali Sadpara, who is already at base camp.

He said: “Hopefully we will find them.

“It’s very difficult to survive in that condition and it’s a big challenge for a mountaineer to climb in winter.”

Rescuers also plan to use a drone in their search efforts amid the harsh winter weather, he said.

Italian ambassador Stefano Pontecorvo tweeted that the helicopters had taken off and that he hoped the search would start shortly.

At around 6am UK time, he tweeted: “Army Aviation took off from Skardu at 11.00 to drop @AlexTxikon and the team at Camp-1 #NangaParbat notwithstanding very low clouds/low visibility conditions in valley along the intended route.

“Search for @NardiDaniele and Tom Ballard will be on shortly…”

Mr Ballard was born in Derbyshire but moved to the Scottish Highlands in 1995, the year his mother, Alison Hargreaves, died on K2 when she was 33, months after becoming the first woman to conquer Everest unaided.

Friends of the climbers have raised more than £104,585 towards the search effort in two days through a GoFundMe page.

The target of the fundraiser is 150,000 euros (£128,500).

A message on the page states: “We are so grateful for everyone who has led these rescue efforts on the ground.

“The helicopter rescue operation costs roughly 50,000 euros (£42,846) per day. Donations to help support these costs are graciously appreciated.

“Any unused donations will be donated to the schools of Pakistan where Daniele has regularly donated school materials and medicine on this and past expeditions.”

Despite being dubbed “Killer Mountain” because of its dangerous conditions, the summit of Nanga Parbat has long drawn climbers.

Located in Pakistan’s Gilgit Baltistan area, it is the ninth highest mountain in the world at 8,126 metres (26,660 feet).

Nardi and Ballard set out on the climb on February 22, making it to the fourth base camp by the following day.

The pair last made contact on February 24 from an elevation of around 6,300 meters (nearly 20,700 feet) on Nanga Parbat.

Pakistan dispatched search helicopters last week despite the closure of its airspace amid tensions with neighbouring India over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.

Sadpara, who joined the search team, saw a snow-covered tent on Thursday.

Nardi’s team had said in a Facebook post that traces of an avalanche were evident in the area.

Nardi, 42, from near Rome, has attempted the Nanga Parbat summit in winter several times in the past.

In 2015 Ballard became the first person ever to solo climb all six major north faces of the Alps in one winter.

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