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The intense search for missing Lochaber climber Tom Ballard on Pakistan’s ‘Killer Mountain’ has been called off.
Rescuers have found no trace of Ballard or his Italian climbing partner Daniele Nardi in their searches on Nanga Parbat in the Pakistan Himalayas over the last week, leaving them with little choice but to halt the rescue effort today (Wednesday March 06).
Ballard, 30, who grew up in Spean Bridge, has been missing since last Sunday, February 25, when he and Nardi last made contact with their team at base camp. The pair were attempting to reach the summit of the 8,126 metre (26,660 ft) peak, nicknamed ‘Killer Mountain’.
They had reportedly made it to Camp 4 on the mountain and the last contact from them was at a height of 6,300 metres (nearly 20,700 ft).
A team of highly experienced mountaineers, led by Spaniard Alex Txikon and Pakistani Ali Sadpara, bravely retraced the route that Ballard and Nardi were attempting, known as the Mummery Spur, to try and find the missing climbers. The team searched the area on foot and by using drones but to no avail.
The search continued this morning (Wednesday March 6) on a different route up Nanga Parbat, despite a high risk of avalanche. However, they found no trace of the climbers and decided to call of the search.
Initial searches by helicopter detected a three-person tent “invaded by snow” in the area on Thursday but further searches over the weekend were foiled by bad weather. On Monday a helicopter was able to fly to 7,000m but nothing was seen.
Ballard is the son of mountaineer Alison Hargreaves who died, aged 33, while descending from the summit of K2 in 1995, the same year she became the first woman to conquer Mount Everest unaided. Earlier in 1995, the family, including Ballard’s sister Kate and father Jim, moved to Spean Bridge from Derbyshire.
A former Lochaber High School pupil, Ballard soon gained a reputation as a promising climber and has since gone on to achieve international recognition as a professional mountaineer.
In 2015, he became the first person to have solo climbed all six of the major Alpine north faces in a single winter.
An online fundraising campaign had raised about £140,000 to help fund the helicopter search team, which is said to cost roughly £43,000 a day.
Karrar Haidri, secretary of the Alpine Club of Pakistan, said in an interview with Associated Press on Tuesday: ‘In winter on the mountain the weather is very hash and sometimes you are facing -50 temperature there. So it is very difficult to survive in that condition.’
Ian Sykes, a renowned climber and friend of the Ballard family during their time in Lochaber, spoke of Ballard’s upbringing on the mountains in Lochaber and said it was clear that he would take after his mother.
‘He feels like one of ours,’ he continued. ‘They were very settled and part of the community here, and it was very obvious that Tom was going to be a pretty good climber as well.
‘I can’t imagine what it’s like for the family just now,’ Mr Sykes added. ‘It’s a real catastrophe.’