An eight-member mountaineering team, including seven foreigners, has gone missing on its way to the 7,434 metre high Nanda Devi East peak, prompting a massive search and rescue operation amid bad weather. The team led by well-known British mountaineer Martin Moran includes three other climbers from the UK, two from the US and one from Australia, besides an officer from the Indian Mountaineering Foundation, New Delhi.
The team had left Munsiyari near Pithoragarh on May 13 to scale the peak but did not return to the base camp on May 25 as scheduled.
The missing climbers are Martin Moran, John McLaren, Richard Payne and Rupert Havel from the UK, Anthony Sudecam and Rachel Bimmel from the US, Ruth Macrain from Australia and IMF's Chetan Pandey, said Pithoragarh District Magistrate V K Jogdande.
The team leader Martin Moran is a well-known climber who has already scaled the peak twice in the past, he said.
The district administration launched the search operation after people at the base camp alerted authorities late on Friday night.
The team is said to have been missing since May 25 when it was supposed to return to the base camp, Jogdande told reporters on Saturday. The route to the peak begins from Munsiyari about 132 km from the district headquarters.
Besides the Indo-Tibetan Border Police search teams, a 14-member search and rescue team from Munsiyari too has been sent to the spot this morning, said the district magistrate.
The team comprises men from State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), medical profession, revenue police and local villagers, he said.
Another SDRF team left Dehradun in a helicopter on Saturday morning to conduct an aerial survey of the area but inclement weather hampered the operation, Jogdande said.
"It has been raining in the district. The helicopter which arrived from Dehradun to conduct an aerial survey could not take off due to bad weather. An air search will be conducted tomorrow if the weather permits," he said.
“An ITBP search team has reached Martoli village about 21 km from Nanda Devi base camp," he said.
"We have also sought helicopter sorties from neighbouring districts of Chamoli and Rudraprayag to trace the exact location of the mountaineers,” he said.