Tom Ballard: Missing climbers assumed dead as search ends

Tom Ballard and Daniele Nardi Image copyright Daniele Nardi
Image caption Tom Ballard and Daniele Nardi before their last contact with their team

A search for two climbers missing after an avalanche on a mountain in Pakistan has been called off, with any hope of finding the men alive now gone.

Briton Tom Ballard and Italian Daniele Nardi last made contact from Nanga Parbat, at an altitude of about 6,300m (20,700ft), 10 days ago.

Helicopter, drone and ground searches have found no trace of either of the men.

Rescue attempts had been delayed due to bad weather and tensions in the region.

BBC World Affairs reporter Richard Galpin said it was believed the pair had been hit by a "huge avalanche" during the night, the sound of which was apparently heard by villagers miles away, and it "is now assumed they are dead".

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

Ahead of her death, he had moved to Fort William in Lochaber in the Scottish Highlands with his sister Kate and father Jim.

The route Mr Ballard, originally from Belper in Derbyshire, and Mr Nardi were attempting on the world's ninth highest peak - dubbed "killer mountain" - is known as the Mummery Spur.

Image copyright Montane
Image caption Tom Ballard has been described as one of the world's best climbers

Contact was lost after 24 February and the men, regarded as among the world's best climbers, have not been seen or heard from since.

On Wednesday, a rescue team led by the Spanish climber Alex Txikon searched an area known as the Kishofer route without "positive results", according to Mr Nardi's Facebook page.

Despite the search being called off, the team has suggested it will continue looking on Thursday, albeit with a telescope from the base camp.

Stefano Pontecorvo, the Italian ambassador to Pakistan, also tweeted that the search would continue on foot and with a helicopter.

"I assure you no one is risking their lives or any harm," he said in another message, following concerns over the safety of the rescuers.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Tom Ballard's mother Alison Hargreaves on her descent from the top Everest, which she reached unaided in 1995

Karrar Haidri, secretary of the Alpine Club of Pakistan, said rescue efforts had ended earlier on Wednesday after another unsuccessful day.

He said the team, Pakistan's military and the climbers' families and friends had done everything possible to find the missing men.

Last week, experienced Pakistani mountaineer Ali Sadpara, who was in an army helicopter, announced seeing a tent "invaded by snow" and "traces of an avalanche".

Ian Sykes, a climber and founder of Nevis Range, near Fort William, became a close friend of Mr Ballard's family during their time in the Highlands.

Image caption Ian Sykes got to know the Ballard family when they moved to Scotland in 1995

Mr Sykes said Mr Ballard was a "committed climber" who had been making a name for himself in continental Europe.

"I know his family are very upset to have this devastating thing to happen and for it to happen twice is extraordinary," he said.

"Both Jim and Katie [Ballard] must be feeling dreadful and all I can do is wish them the best."

About 142,000 euros (£122,000) has been raised to fund the helicopter search team, which is said to cost about 50,000 euros (£43,000) a day.

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