“Two silhouettes” discovered on Nanga Parbat

The Mummery Rib (arrow) in the Diamir Face

There is much speculation these days about the search for the two climbers Daniele Nardi and Tom Ballard missing on Nanga Parbat. And it’s not always easy to keep facts and assumptions apart in the countless publications. Nardi’s home team announced today that Spaniard Alex Txikon said he discovered yesterday with a telescope from base camp “two silhouettes” on the Mummery spur. Actually, it was planned to fly to this spot by helicopter today.

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Search for Nardi and Ballard is about to end

Tom Ballard (l.) and Daniele Nardi

Even ten days after the last sign of life of Daniele Nardi and Tom Ballard from Nanga Parbat, there is still no trace of the two missing climbers. After three days of searching in vain for the 42-year-old Italian and the 30-year-old British in the area around the “Mummery Rib”, a striking  rock spur in the Diamir Face, and today also on the nearby Kinshofer route, the Spaniards Alex Txikon and Felix Criado as well as the Pakistanis Muhammad Ali Sadpara and Rahmat Ullah Baig returned to base camp. The rescue team had also used camera drones during their search.

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Moro: “The Mummery Spur is suicidal”

Rettungshubschrauber am Nanga Parbat

On 8,125-meter-high Nanga Parbat in Pakistan, two of the mountain’s three first winter ascenders, Spaniard Alex Txikon and Pakistani Muhammad Ali “Sadpara” , are currently searching for the two missing climbers Daniele Nardi and Tom Ballard. The 42-year-old Italian and the 30-year-old Briton had last signed up from the “Mummery Rib” at an altitude of 6300 meters on 24 February. The hope of finding them alive is fading.

The third winter ascender of Nanga Parbat in 2016, Simone Moro, is staying in his home country Italy after his return from Nepal. The 51-year-old and his Nepalese climbing partner Pemba Gyalje Sherpa surrendered to the huge masses of snow on the eight-thousander Manaslu at the end of January. I had sent Simone some questions before the events in Nanga Parbat took their dramatic turn. Among other things, I asked him about the chances of the teams on K2 and Nanga Parbat. Moro replied with reference to the current developments on Nanga Parbat as follows:

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Nanga Parbat: Search for Nardi and Ballard resumed

Good weather on Nanga Parbat

Finally the weather has cleared up again at Nanga Parbat, so that the search for the climbers Daniele Nardi and Tom Ballard, who have been missing for eight days, has been resumed. With a military helicopter the Spaniard Alex Txikon, three of his team members and the Pakistani mountaineer Rahmat Ullah Baig were flown today to the ninth highest mountain in the world. “We have pitched up our Camp on the plateau between Camps 1 and 2 at an altitude of 4,850 meters,” Alex reported according to montagna.tv. “The weather is splendid”. But due to the warm temperatures the danger of avalanches is increasing, says the 37-year-old, adding that they reconnoitered the mountain by helicoptery very accurately – the Kinshofer route, then the Mummery Rib and finally the glacier area between Camp 3 and the spot where the helicopter landed. “We reached an altitude of about 7,100 meters. Unfortunately there are no visible traces of our friends.” Txikon wanted to climb up to Camp 2 with another mountaineer. The team will also search the area with camera drones.

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Still no sign of life from Nardi and Ballard

Zero visibility on Nanga Parbat

We defend ourselves internally against it. However, slowly, but surely the hope of being able to find the climbers Daniele Nardi and Tom Ballard, who are missing on Nanga Parbat, alive is fading. For six days there has been no sign of life from the 42-year-old Italian and the 30-year-old British. Thick clouds hid the 8,125-meter-high mountain on this Saturday and prevented again that the rescue action could be continued. As the weather was also bad on K2, the plan to take the Spaniard Alex Txikon and three of his team members by helicopter to Nanga Parbat could not be implemented. Txikon and Co. want to support Muhammad Ali “Sadpara” and two other Pakistani mountaineers in their search for Nardi and Ballard, among others things by using two drones.

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Bad weather and bureaucracy hinder search for missing climbers

Clouds around Nanga Parbat

A lost day. Low clouds around Nanga Parbat today prevented the helicopters from taking off again to search for the two climbers missing since Sunday, 42-year-old Italian Daniele Nardi and 30-year-old Brit Tom Ballard. In addition there were bureaucratic problems. According to Daniele’s home team, the private agency Askari, which handles the Pakistan Army’s rescue flights, demanded an advance payment for a helicopter to pick up Spanish climber Alex Txikon and three of his team members from K2 Base Camp. Alex and Co. had offered to fly to Nanga Parbat to support the search for Nardi and Ballard. Nardi’s family wanted to advance the necessary money. Valuable time was lost through the back and forth, the weather worsened and the flight had to be postponed to tomorrow’s Saturday.

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Search for Nardi and Ballard on Nanga Parbat so far unsuccessful

Muhammad Ali Sadpara in Nanga Parbat Base Camp

Military helicopters took off twice today on Nanga Parbat to search for the missing climbers Daniele Nardi and Tom Ballard. In vain. The 42-year-old Italian and the 30-year-old Briton had last reported on Sunday from an altitude of about 6,300 meters on the “Mummery Rib”, a striking rock spur in the Diamir Face that has never been climbed completely so far. Since then, there has been no sign of life from the two climbers.

Traces of avalanches

Muhammad Ali Sadpara, one of the three winter first ascenders of Nanga Parbat in 2016, was flown by helicopter from Skardu to the base camp in the morning. The helicopters then flew up to 7,000 meters to search for Nardi and Ballard. Muhammad Ali reported that the pilots had discovered Nardi’s and Ballard’s camp site at 6,300 meters, buried under snow. According to the 43-year-old Pakistani mountaineer, traces of avalanches were visible in the area, showing how dangerous this zone was. That is not good news.

Race against time

According to Stefano Pontecorvo, Italy’s ambassador to Pakistan, the helicopters will take off again on Friday – if the weather permits. For the next few days, stronger wind and snowfall are expected on Nanga Parbat. This could further increase the risk of avalanches at the Mummery Rib. It is a race against time. So keep your fingers crossed – or pray!

Nanga Parbat: Concern for Nardi and Ballard

Tom Ballard (l.) and Daniele Nardi

With every hour that passes without any sign of life from Daniele Nardi and Tom Ballard, the concern for the two mountaineers grows. The last call of the 42-year-old Italian and the 30-year-old Briton by satellite phone from Nanga Parbat was received on Sunday from an altitude of about 6,300 meters – from the “Mummery Rib”, which they wanted to climb completely for the first time. Since then radio silence. This does not necessarily mean that something has happened to them. Maybe they are stuck in a radio hole. Or the battery of the satellite phone has run out. Nevertheless, an uneasy feeling is spreading.

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Viewed: “Free Solo”

Alex Honnold during his free solo on El Capitan

Actually, it goes without saying. To recommend an Oscar-winning film is like telling a visitor of Yosemite National Park to take a look at El Capitan. But I have written the following movie review before “Free Solo” war honored as best documentary last night in Los Angeles. Honestly!

Everybody’s afraid for Alex. His girlfriend Sanni, his friend and training partner Tommy Caldwell, the camera crew. “Alex has the best day of his life, I not,” says cameraman Mickey Schäfer and turns his back on his tool. “I’m done.” With a super telephoto, he films the ascent of American climber Alex Honnold on the legendary granite giant El Capitan via the “Free Rider” route. German Alexander Huber opened it in 1995, three years later he and his brother Thomas climbed the route redpoint: free and in one push.

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How long does the good weather last on Nanga Parbat and K2?

Nardi and Ballard ascending to the Mummery Rib

Let’s go up! It’s as if someone had opened the gate of a pasture where a herd of bulls had been penned for almost two weeks. As soon as the weather improved on K2 and Nanga Parbat, the climbers of the winter expeditions made their way up. On the 8,125-meter-high Nanga Parbat, the Italian Daniele Nardi and the Brit Tom Ballard, according to their home team, today pitched up their tent at about 6,000 meters – after entering the “Mummery Rib”. They want to climb the striking rock spur completely for the first time and then make their way to the summit. “We are a bit tired because we had to carry heavy backpacks up to pitch up Camp 3,” Daniele let us know.

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Winter expeditions: After storm and snowfall, before the ascent?

This is how it often looked on K2 over the past few days

The “torture of climbers” is coming to an end. For almost two weeks, the members of the winter expeditions on the eight-thousanders K2 and Nanga Parbat in Pakistan were more or less condemned to do nothing because of the adverse weather conditions. Hardly anything is worse for mountaineers, who are always drawn outside and up. But strong wind and snowfall prevented ascents into high altitudes. In K2 Base Camp, the team of Spanish expedition leader Alex Txikon built a 1.80 meter high and 20 centimeter wide ice wall in front of the tents to protect themselves against the expected hurricane gusts. A good idea. Wind speeds of more than 100 kilometres per hour were measured (see Alex’ video below) .

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Chinese Base Camp now only open for Everest climbers

View on Everest from the base camp

“Spirits that I’ve cited, my commands ignore”, wrote Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in his ballad “Der Zauberlehrling” (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice) in 1797. In German-speaking countries this became a dictum – which also describes quite well the current situation in the so-called “Chinese Base Camp” (CBC), at 5,200 meters, on the Tibetan north side of Mount Everest. Several tens of thousands of tourists have visited the camp year after year – and left a lot of rubbish behind.

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Eight-thousanders aren’t dumps!

Old fixed ropes on House’s Chimney

I don’t give a damn. According to this maxim many mountaineers seem to be en route on the highest mountains in the world. Instead of removing their fixed ropes, they leave them hanging, instead of taking their garbage with them, they leave it lying there. Vassily Pivtsov, leader of the K2 winter expedition from Kazakhstan, Russia and Kyrgyzstan, reported that he and his team mates had found a lot of used and full oxygen bottles below House’s Chimney, one of the key points of the route via the Southeast Ridge, as well as further rubbish like old tents.

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Pivtsov’s team on K2 at 7,000 meters

The spot Pivtsov and Co. reached on Saturday

They defied the wind. On K2, the second highest mountain on earth, winter expedition leader Vassiliy Pivtsov, his Kazakh compatriot Tursunali Aubakirov, Russian Roman Abildaev and Kyrgyz Mikhail Danichkin reached an altitude of 7,000 today. The four climbers pitched their tents below the so-called “Black Pyramid”, one of the key points of the route via the Southeast ridge: 400 meters of steep rock and ice, often with dangerous layers of snow on the rock slabs.

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Then I’ll just let myself be flown out

Helicopter takes off from Syangboche Airfield above Namche Bazaar

In the ongoing discussion about the large-scale insurance fraud caused by faked helicopter rescue flights in Nepal, one aspect is missing out in my opinion: As reprehensible as the illegal activities of the trekking agencies, guides and hospitals involved in the scandal are and must therefore be punished, the attitude of many trekking tourists and mountaineers who let themselves be flown out by helicopter also plays a role. The question must be allowed: How willingly has one or the other alleged patient gone on board?

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