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.
Rescue flight on Thursday?
Today, Wednesday, the clouds that had covered the Diamir Face of Nanga Parbat in the past few days cleared away. However, the liaison officer and the two cooks at base camp were unable to spot the two climbers with binoculars. Actually the Pakistani climber Muhammad Ali “Sadpara”, who in 2016 (together with Spaniard Alex Txikon and Italian Simone Moro) was one of the three winter first ascenders of Nanga Parbat), was supposed to be flown by helicopter from Skardu to the base camp already today. But the take-off had to be postponed, obviously because of a flight ban over northern Pakistan imposed after the renewed conflict with neighboring India over the Kashmir region.
The Italian ambassador to Pakistan then obtained an exemption for the rescue operation on Nanga Parbat. The helicopter is to take off now finally on Thursday morning. Pakistani mountaineer Karim Hayat, who had left the winter expedition on Nanga Parbat at the end of January (“I don’t want to die on this mountain,” Karim wrote on Facebook at the time), wants to reach the base camp on foot to help with the search.
K2 climbers requested
The members of the K2 winter expedition from Kazakhstan, Russia and Kyrgyzstan, according to their own statement, were also asked, whether they would take part in a rescue operation on Nanga Parbat. The team agreed to assign four climbers. Yesterday the team led by Kazakh Vassiliy Pivtsov – as well as Alex Txikon’s team – had returned to base camp because strong winds with speeds of more than 70 kilometers per hour had made a further ascent impossible.
Muhammad Ali Sadpara would appreciate it if the winter climbers from K2 could strengthen the search crew. The mountaineers from K2 were not only among the best in the world, but also already acclimatized, the 43-year-old Pakistani climber wrote on Facebook.
For tomorrow, relatively stable weather is predicted for both eight-thousanders – in contrast to Friday and Saturday, when storm and snowfall are expected.
Nardis fifth attempt
Daniele Nardi is currently tackling Nanga Parbat for the fifth time in winter, for Tom Ballard it is the first winter expedition. In summer 2017, the two had been on their first common expedition to Pakistan. On the still unclimbed 7,041-meter-high Link Sar, they had reached an altitude of 5,700 meters in the Northeast Face. After an avalanche had hit their tent, they had abandoned their attempt.
Son of a Himalayan legend
Tom Ballard is the son of British mountaineers Jim Ballard and Alison Hargreaves. In 1995, his mother had scaled Mount Everest without bottled oxygen and three months later also K2. On the descent from the second highest mountain on earth, the 33-year-old – like five other climbers who had reached the highest point too – had died in a storm. In 1993, Hargreaves had been the first person to climb the six large north faces of the Alps (Eiger, Grand Jorasses, Matterhorn, Petit Dru, Piz Badile and Cima Grande) in the same summer. In 2015, her son Tom was the first to repeat this feat in winter.