The mountaineering world is presently holding its collective breath as British climber Tom Ballard is missing on Pakistan’s formidable and forbiddng Nanga Parbat, along with fellow climber Daniele Nardi. Attempting a winter summit of the ninth highest mountain in the world, their last ditch effort to summit may have met with bitter tragedy as they have not been heard from in over a week, and there is evidence that one of their high camps was destroyed in an avalanche.
Ballard is the son of famous British climber Alison Hargreaves, who achieved several important and remarkable first ascents, but was killed descending from K2 in 1995, along with five other climbers.
Rescue efforts have been hampered in two ways: first by escalating tensions between India and Pakistan, including the downing of an Indian Air Force plane which, for a time, closed airspace near Nanga Parbat, and second by terrible weather and further avalanches on the mountain. As reported by Planet Mountain:
Update at 16:00 (20:00 Pakistan time) on 03/03/2019
Unfortunately, the helicopters that had taken off from Skardu with Alex Txikon and his team were forced to return due to bad weather that stopped them from reaching Nanga Parbat BC. They will try again tomorrow!
This is the statement published on the FB page of Daniele Nardi: “With heavy heart we inform you that the Pakistani helicopters have not managed to transport the rescue team led by Alex Txikon to the Nanga Parbat base camp because of the heavy snowfall that started to to fall on the mountain once again. Given the weather and the safety risks involved, the pilots decided to land at Jaglot and eventually return to Skardu. A new attempt is scheduled for tomorrow, weather conditions permitting.”
Ballard and Nardi arrived at Nanga Parbat at the end of December 2018 and despite heavy snowfall, high risk of avalanches, and adverse weather conditions the pair managed to make Camp 2 at 5200 meters and Camp 3 at 5700 meters, at the edge of the base of the Mummery Rib, inside a crevasse. They managed to place a Camp 4 at around 6200 meters. On Sunday 24th February Nardi communicated via satellite phone that they had reached an altitude of about 6300 meters, but since then the ground-team has lost all contact with the two mountaineers. Some reports stated that the climbers had started to return to Camp 3, but those reports are not confirmed. The Pakistani Army released reconnaissence photos of a wrecked Camp thatr could be Nardi and Ballard’s Camp 3.