The search on Nanga Parbat continues to suffer delays, mostly weather related. On K2 one team has left to help on Nanga, similar to last year, while another is climbing towards the summit, weather permitting. This week will close many open questions.
Nanga Search Overview
It has now been a week since Nanga Parbat climbers Tom Ballard and Daniel Nardi went missing. Repeated attempts to use Pakistan quasi-military helicopters have been thwarted by low clouds, or heavy snow. Bureaucratic issues have taken precious time away from the search due to the helicopter operations requiring cash upfront before launching missions. Ground search by brave Pakistani volunteers have also come up empty.
Now one of the two teams attempting K2 have tried to fly to NP base camp to use their drones in the search but were detoured just short of base camp when low clouds made flying too dangerous. So, today, late Sunday, March 3, there are qualified climbers, already acclimatized, with three drones ready to help. They are close to base camp but still a helicopter flight away. A GOFUNDME account has raised well over $100,000 to fund the helicopters but the weather is not cooperating and with every hour, the hopes for a rescue fade.
On Nardi’s Facebook page, which is the official source of news, they posted today, March 3, 2019:
With a heavy heart, we inform you that the Pakistani aviation helicopters were not able to lead the rescue team led by Alex Txikon to the base camp of Nanga Parbat, due to the snowfall that began to fall copiously on the mountain. Given the weather situation and safety risks, the pilots decided to land in Jaglot and eventually return to Skardu. A new attempt is scheduled for tomorrow morning, weather permitting.
And Anna Piunova, who is Editor-in-Chief at Mountain RU, Facebook page she posted these videos taken by Txikon and crew on board a Pakistan Army Aviation’s Écureuil B3:
She added these details about the difficult flight:
Pakistan Army Aviation pilots were on standby since this morning to pick up the Spanish rescuers from K2 Base Camp and drop them off on Nanga Parbat. As soon as the route weather cleared up, they took off from Skardu AAB around 1230hrs PST. They passed via Paiju and started their flight from Paiju to K2 BC around 1310hrs. The weather from Paiju to Concordia was quite difficult with very low clouds. The pilots took the risk because of the importance of the mission and flew very slowly during this stretch. The low cloud cover improved significantly when the formation reached Concordia and entered Godwin Austin glacier.
Having reached K2 BC, the four Spanish rescuers were picked up with their gear and brought to Paiju. After a brief stopover in Paiju, the two Écureuil B3s brought the rescuers to Skardu AAB.
After a brief stopover in Skardu, the formation started their flight towards Nanga Parbat. Time being of essence, the pilots wanted to drop off the rescue team today on Nanga Parbat and took the risk of flying in the overcast weather. Unfortunately, around 8kms short of Nanga Parbat, the cloud cover was extremely low (around 3000m). Given that Nanga Parbat BC is much higher, the pilots after discussing with rescuers decided to turn around and head towards Jaglot. After checking the weather again at Nanga Parbat, the formation decided to fly back towards Skardu given the security risks involved in attempting to land at Nanga Parbat is such low visibility.
Pakistan Army Aviation would be attempting to drop off the Spanish rescue team tomorrow morning. The team includes Alix Txikon, Felix Criado, Ignacio de Zuloaga and the Dr. Josep Sanchis.
K2: Spanish/Galician Team – Helping on Nanga
Four members of the K2 team lead by Alex Txikon’s have left base camp to help with the search on Nanga. The members who left are Alex Txikon, Felix Criado, Ignacio de Zuloaga and Dr. josep Sanchis. That would leave all of the Sherpas still at K2, leaving open the question of an attempt once the crisis on Nanga is resolved. Txikon believes winter ends on March 20, so in his mind there is still time for a winter summit.
K2: Kazakhstan, Russia and Kyrgyzstan Team – Summit Push
The Kazakhstan, Russia and Kyrgyzstan team are now at Camp 1 on their last effort to summit. The climbers included Pivtsov, Aubakirov, Brown, Danichkin, Smailov and Temirbaev. They had reached 7,200-meters just above the Black Pyramid and left gear, but in past pushes their tents had been destroyed by wind or buried in deep snow.
Memories are Everything