Hope Fades for Missing Climbers on Nanga Parbat

Helicopter and drone reconnaissance flights have discovered that massive avalanches have swept the Mummery Spur in the last few days. The search gamely continues for Daniele Nardi and Tom Ballard, in the hope of another Lincoln Hall miracle, but back home, the fatalistic comments have already started. “I guess we’re now searching for bodies,” Italian climber Simone Moro told The Times.

Nanga Parbat Base Camp in March 2019

Footprints heading toward Nanga Parbat’s Diamir Face from Base Camp. Photo: Daniele Nardi’s team


After transferring Alex Txikon, Felix Criado, Ali Sadpara and Rahmat Ullah Baig to Nanga Parbat yesterday, the helicopter scouted a large part of the peak’s Diamir side, including the normal Kinshoffer route. The hope was that the missing climbers could perhaps have reached the summit plateau on their last push and decided to descend that way, where fixed ropes from previous expeditions would have been easy to find.

The pilots then followed the Mummery Spur downwards, since the climbers’ plans included setting up Camp 4 at 6,000m and then returning to Camp 3 and then C2. However, neither the pilots nor Txikon’s drones nor a telescope were able to spot any traces of Nardi and Ballard, or their Camp 4 tent.

Txikon himself and climbing partner Felix Criado set off on foot up to Camp 2, which they found buried in avalanche debris. They retrieved some of the missing pair’s personal effects. Then, given the increasing risk of avalanches in the afternoon, the Spaniards retreated back to their provisional camp, set between Camp 1 and Camp 2.

Today,  Txikon, Criado and possibly Ali Sadpara and Rahmat Ullah Baig ventured up the mountain again. They searched the area between Camp 1 and Camp 3, reaching the plateau of seracs above Camp 2. From here, they launched their drones. One drone scouted up to 6,500 meters; another was lost. The flights discovered no traces. Even Camp 3 had disappeared.

The low temperature on the wall and the high risk of avalanches did not allow the group to climb up to Camp 3, so they turned around and reached Base Camp later in the afternoon.


In newspapers stories over the past week, the media has enthusiastically dredged up Nanga Parbat’s infamous tag of Killer Mountain, originally given by the German-Austrian pioneers who suffered a number of casualties before finally reaching its summit back in 1953. Since then, the nickname has proven inaccurate, since Annapurna and K2 kill relatively more climbers.

In recent days, the outspoken Simone Moro has described the Mummery Spur route as “Russian roulette”, due to constant avalanches and huge ice chunks falling right on the route. “If we continue to say they were just unlucky, the risk is someone will die there next year,” Moro states. Avalanche danger and deep snow forced Moro to call off his own attempt on winter Manaslu earlier this year.

Meanwhile, on K2…

Member in Alex Txikon team in a higher camp on winter K2

The Spanish team at a higher camp on K2 yesterday. Photo: Alex Txikon

Both the Russian-Kazakh-Kyrgyz team and the rest of Alex Txikon’s crew not involved in the Nanga Parbat search are progressing on a silent K2. The Nepalese Sherpa climbers planned to reach Camp 2 today and will continue fixing ropes up to Camp 3 in coming days.

Vassiliy Pivtsov, Artem Braun, Tursunali Aubakirov and Mikhail Danichkin reached Camp 2 (6,800m) yesterday in 40 to 50kph winds. According to some standards, winter finished at the end of February, three weeks before the official spring equinox. But the climbers remain hopeful for some success, regardless of how big an asterisk their accomplishment may carry in the winter record books.

Related stories:

Txikon Searches on Foot for Nardi and Ballard

Alex Txikon & Co. en Route from K2 to Nanga Parbat

Weather Again Delays Search

No Sign of Climbers, Avalanche Risk Too High for Searchers

Wrecked Tent and Avalanche Debris Spotted on Nanga Parbat

Nardi and Ballard Missing on Nanga Parbat

Txikon Searches on Foot for Nardi and Ballard

Simone Moro Abandons Manaslu