Tom Ballard: ‘Killer Mountain’ search for missing Briton delayed by bad weather

A helicopter and drone search for a British climber missing on so-called “Killer Mountain” has been delayed by bad weather – with rescuers saying they are hoping for a miracle.

It is almost a week since Tom Ballard lost contact on Nanga Parbat, a 8,126-metre (26,660ft) peak in Pakistan’s Himalayas.

He was with Italian Daniele Nardi, but an air search for the pair was postponed on Saturday.

The Italian ambassador to Pakistan, Stefano Pontecorvo, tweeted: “Weather conditions today do not allow the planned search and rescue op for @NardiDaniele Tom Ballard.

“Tomorrow morning conditions should be better and will try again.”

He said they were “hoping for a miracle” and that the missing climbers are “tough guys”.

Helicopter pilots had been on standby from 5.30am local time but snow, clouds and bad visibility meant they could not fly, according to Mr Pontecorvo’s Facebook page.

The ambassador also said he had spoken to Spanish climber Alex Txikon, who is joining the rescue along with a team of three people, including a doctor.

Mr Txikon is expected to fly drones over the area where the climbers went missing.

Temperatures on the mountain are said to be at least -40C (-40F), with winds ranging from 120mph to 200mph (193kmh to 321kmh).

Numerous deaths on the mountain over the years have earned it the nickname “Killer Mountain”. In 2013, the Taliban also shot dead 11 people at base camp.

Plans to start the search on Thursday were scuppered when Pakistan shut its airspace amid a confrontation with its neighbour India.

Russian mountaineers on nearby K2, world’s second-highest mountain, offered to support the mission on Friday but were stood down due to an increased avalanche risk.

Mr Ballard, from Derbyshire, is a renowned climber, as was his mother Alison Hargreaves – who died on K2 in 1995.

She was the first woman to climb Everest unaided.

The Foreign Office has confirmed that it is in contact with Pakistani authorities about the Briton, who began his quest to scale Nanga Parbat in December.

He and Mr Nardi reached the first camp at 15,400ft (4,700m) on 7 January and the second camp at 17,000ft (5,200m) just over three weeks later.

Their final contact with base camp came on 22 February and the last word from Mr Ballard came on Sunday, when he spoke to his wife over a satellite phone.

Mr Ballard, 20, had been documenting his efforts on Instagram before going missing and appeared to be in good spirits.

His last post on 19 February showed him on skis as he sized up a steep descent, along with the caption: “This should be fun!”

Posting on Facebook on the same day, he said: “Basecamp life is becoming, almost, like a holiday while we wait for that elusive weather window.

“Many new and interesting drytooling boulder problems, luncheon in the sun and afternoon skiing.

“What more could you want?”

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