Anxiety grows over fate of missing climbers in Pakistan

Tom Ballard and Daniele Nardi

ROME - Concern is growing over the fate of Lazio mountaineer Daniele Nardi and Englishman Tom Ballard who, attempting the winter ascent of the Himalayan peak Nanga Parbat in Pakistan, have not been heard from since Sunday when they contacted their base camp by satellite phone.

 In the last communication, they were at an altitude of some 6,300 meters, where the temperature had dropped to around -40°C. The climbers decided to take a new route up the world's ninth highest mountain, along the Mummery Spur.

 In Pakistan, a helicopter was ready with Ali Sadpara, an experienced mountaineer on board, with the aim of scouring the area. However, the aircraft which was set to fly over the ascent route of the two mountaineers, in addition to the Kinshofer and Messner routes, was blocked in Skardu due to political tensions between India and Pakistan.

 The Italian government have now managed to get permission for a rescue to start.

 The expedition staff said the lack of communications may be due to bad weather or phone batteries running out.