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Tributes have been paid to Lochaber climber Tom Ballard this week after rescuers found the body of him and his climbing partner Daniele Nardi on Nanga Parbat on Sunday.
Mr Ballard, who grew up in Spean Bridge near Fort William, and his companion last made contact from the ninth highest mountain in the world at an altitude of around 6,300 metres (nearly 20,700 ft) almost two weeks ago. The pair were attempting to reach the summit of the famous Himalayan peak in Pakistan, nicknamed ‘Killer Mountain’.
It had been reported mid week that the search had been called off, but it was restarted after two ‘silhouettes’ were spotted on a route known to have been taken by the climbers.
Officials confirmed on Sunday March 10 that the sighting was of the missing men. It is thought they may have been killed in a “huge avalanche”.
Rescue team leader Spanish climber Alex Txikon found the bodies but they are reported to be in a place difficult to reach. However, the team has said everything possible would be done to try and recover them.
In a statement, Mr Txikon said: ‘After the official confirmation of the families and Stefano Pontecorvo, we can confirm that we have finally finished the search for Daniele Nardi and Tom Ballard. You will be part of the history of mountaineering forever friends.’
Searches for the men began days after they last made contact with their team, but these were delayed because of bad weather and political tensions between Pakistan and India.
Mr Nardi’s team said they were ‘heartbroken’ and that ‘a part of them will always remain on the Nanga Parbat’.
In a statement, they said: ‘The [Nardi] family remembers Tom as a competent alpinist and a brave friend of Daniele. Our thoughts are with him.’
Mr 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.
A former Lochaber High School pupil, Mr Ballard soon gained a reputation as a promising climber after the family, including his father Jim and sister Kate, moved to Lochaber in 1995.
Mr Ballard has since gone on to achieve international recognition as a professional mountaineer and in 2015 he became the first person to have solo climbed all six of the major Alpine north faces in a single winter.
In recent years he has been living in Italy’s Dolomites mountain range with his father.
Mr Ballard’s sister Kate, who thanked people for their support, said on Facebook: ‘Tom and Daniele’s bodies will remain with their mountain. Their souls have moved on.
‘Tom – Be with Mum.’