Tom Ballard: Drone search for missing climbers delayed

Tom Ballard Image copyright Montane
Image caption Tom Ballard's sponsor Montane said they were not giving up hope

A fresh search for a British climber who went missing on a peak in Pakistan has been delayed until Saturday.

Tom Ballard and Italian climber Daniele Nardi last made contact on Sunday, from an altitude of about 20,500ft (6,250m) on Nanga Parbat.

High altitude drones were due to be operated from close to the mountain's base camp and an army helicopter was also set to search for the pair.

However, heavy snow and a payment dispute has led to the postponement.

Image copyright ISPR
Image caption It is not known whether a tent "invaded by snow" on the mountain belongs to the climbers

On Friday, three drones were due to be flown by Spanish mountaineer Alex Txikon in an area known as the Mummery Spur.

This was the route Mr Ballard and Mr Nardi had reportedly been taking in their attempt to reach the summit.

However, Stefano Pontecorvo, the Italian ambassador in Pakistan, tweeted the search was not possible "for a number of reasons including poor weather".

Image copyright PA
Image caption Tom Ballard's mother Alison Hargreaves reached the top of Mount Everest on 13 May 1995

Temperatures on the mountain are said to be about -40C, with winds ranging between 120mph (193km/h) to 200mph (321.8km/h).

According to Mr Nardi's Facebook page, which is updated by his support team, the delay was also due to a row over payment for the army helicopter.

The search only began on Thursday due to airspace restrictions following tensions between Pakistan and India.

Mountaineer Ali Sadpara, the only person to have scaled the peak in winter, said he saw a three-person tent "invaded by snow" while on board a Pakistani army helicopter. However, it is not known if the tent belonged to the missing climbers.

Mr Sadpara has also told the AFP news agency that heavy snowfall and the risk of avalanche has made a ground search "almost impossible".

Image caption Alison Hargreaves died while descending from the summit of K2 in 1995

Mr Ballard, originally from Derbyshire, is the son of Alison Hargreaves, who died descending from the summit of K2, the same year she became the first woman to conquer Everest unaided in 1995.

The 30-year-old climber moved to Scotland in 1995 with his sister Kate and grew up in Fort William in Lochaber.

Family friend Ian Sykes told BBC Scotland he was optimistic Mr Ballard would be found alive.

Kate Ballard posted a message on Facebook, on Thursday, which said: "Please all believe and trust that they will be OK."

Image copyright ISPR

Mr Ballard's sponsor Montane said in a statement on Friday, their thoughts were with both climbers and they were not "giving up hope for their safe return".

Nanga Parbat is the world's ninth highest mountain and a number of deaths have earned it the nickname of "killer mountain".

A Foreign Office spokesman said it was in contact with Pakistani authorities regarding Mr Ballard's disappearance.

Image copyright Tom Ballard
Image caption Tom Ballard is an experienced climber who has set records for his mountaineering feats

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