Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Hopes fade for missing Western climbers in Pakistan

Gerfried Goschl of Austria, Swiss climber Cedric Hahlen
 and a Baltistani high altitude porter Nisar Hussain
Sadpara are missing since Friday
 ISLAMABAD: Pakistan was forced again to call off a  search party for Westerners missing nearly a week in the Karakoram mountains as hopes faded for their safe recovery, officials said Wednesday.

"We were on standby the whole day today, but the weather is very bad and helicopters had to abandon the mission," Colonel Manzoor Ahmed, President of the Pakistan Alpine Club, told AFP.

The members of an international winter expedition to Gasherbrum-1 peak, team leader Gerfried Goschl of Austria, Swiss climber Cedric Hahlen and a Pakistani high altitude porter Nisar Hussain, have been missing since Friday.

It is the highest peak in the Karakoram range on the Pakistan-China border, also known as "Hidden Peak".

"It has been a long time now. They were last spotted around 450 metres short of the summit on Friday. Something went wrong after that. They had two Thuraya sets (satellite phones) and they would have called us soon after scaling the peak," Ahmed said.

"But I think they had some accident and could not reach the summit. They might have been hit by an avalanche or strong wind."

Ahmed said army helicopters would make another attempt at the 8,048 metre peak on Thursday when the weather is expected to improve.

Colonel Sher Khan, a Pakistani mountaineering expert, confirmed there were "good chances" that the helicopters will take off on Thursday.

Khan, who scaled Mount Everest in 1997, also said they may have been blown away by strong wind.

But he said three Poles, suffering badly from frost bite and stranded at a 5,100-metre base camp after scaling the peak last week, would be evacuated as soon as the weather allowed.

No comment was available from Adventure Pakistan that facilitated the tour.

The missing climbers had taken a new route from the southwestern ridge, while the group from Poland had succeeded via the normal northern route.AFP, March 14

Gerfried Göschl and the 8000s

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