Rescuers ‘hope for miracle’ over missing mountaineer

Rescuers searching for a British climber missing in Pakistan are hoping for a miracle, the country’s Italian ambassador has said.

A helicopter search team has been looking for a British climber who was reported missing on a peak in Pakistan.
A helicopter search team has been looking for a British climber who was reported missing on a peak in Pakistan.

Tom Ballard, the son of Scottish mountaineer Alison Hargreaves who died on K2 in 1995, was reported missing on Nanga Parbat earlier this week.

Russian mountaineers were yesterday ruled out of assisting the search for the Derbyshire climber due to avalanche risk.

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Mr Ballard, who had moved to the Scottish Highlands, had been climbing the peak, nicknamed Killer Mountain, with Italian Daniele Nardi and the pair were making an ascent before losing contact.

Italian ambassador Stefano Pontecorvo said the pair had initially been joined by two Pakistani climbers who reached camp three on the 8,126m mountain before turning back.

He said: “Of course I’m hopeful of finding them, of course I might also realise it’s been since the 24th til the 1st of March, there have been avalanches, there have been three days of very bad weather.

“Both Daniele and Tom are tough guys. We hope for a miracle… and just try our best to find them.”

Temperatures on the mountain are said to be at least -40C, with winds ranging from 120mph to 200mph.

Plans for an initial search operation were prevented on Thursday when Pakistan closed its air space after it shot down two Indian military planes, but two army helicopters were eventually drafted in.

Russian mountaineers on K2 offered to support the rescue mission yesterday, with flights scheduled after an agreement was reached with the Italian embassy and the Pakistani air force.

A statement on Mr Mardi’s official Facebook page, posted in Italian, said an avalanche risk meant “it is better to proceed to research with sophisticated electronic flight systems”. Mr Ballard moved to Scotland in the same year his mother died on K2 when she was 33.

Sandy Allan, a family friend of Mr Ballard’s from Newtonmore in the Highlands, has climbed Nanga Parbat twice. He said he was worried about the “competent mountaineer”.

Mr Allan said: “I knew Tom when he was younger and I’d climbed with him and his mother.

“Tom’s an exceptional climber. He’s not done a great deal in the Himalayas but he’s done enough to know how to look after himself very well.

“Some people thought Tom was a little bit of a loner, but he climbed to a very high standard.”