The ‘British Association of Mountain Guides’ (BMG) has no further news to report following our statement yesterday. The BMG is, however, able to provide more detail relating to this distressing incident near ‘Nanda Devi East’.
The Expedition was made up of twelve members including two British Mountain Guides, Martin Moran and Mark Thomas, an Indian Liaison Officer and support staff.
The overall objective was to climb ‘Nanda Devi East’. They reached base camp on the 18th May and by the 21st the camp was fully set up. One team member became sick and returned to New Delhi and then back to the USA.
The BMG understands that the team split into two groups. One group of four led by Mark Thomas had gone to prepare the route on ‘Nanda Devi East’ and had reached Camp 2. The second group, led by Martin Moran and including the Liaison Officer set off for an acclimatisation climb on an unnamed and unclimbed Peak (referred to as Peak 6447m) above base camp.
On the 25th May a message from Martin Moran situated at a camp at almost 5400m, indicated that all was well, the weather was good and their intentions were to attempt the summit in the early hours of the following day.
From this point onwards the BMG has received conflicting reports. What follows is the BMG’s current understanding of events.
When Martin Moran’s group failed to return on the expected date, the base camp support staff alerted Mark Thomas by radio. Mark immediately descended from ‘Nanda Devi East’ with the three climbers and returned to base camp. Mark then went on to the ‘Peak 6447m’ to try to locate Martin and his team of climbers. He did not locate the climbers but did find that there had been a very large avalanche on the route that the missing climbers were expected to have taken. At this point he instructed the field support staff to alert rescue services.
During the early morning of Friday 31st May the alarm was raised. The Indian Mountaineering Foundation contacted relevant authorities and a team of rescuers was dispatched, on foot, to Nanda Devi East base camp. At this juncture the weather conditions were too harsh to fly helicopters into the mountains. This poor weather persisted throughout Saturday 1st June and again the helicopter was unable to fly.
On Sunday 2nd June the helicopter was able to fly and picked up Mark Thomas from base camp to participate in the recce the mountain from the air. No signs of the missing climbers were observed nor any evidence of equipment nor tents. The scale of the avalanche became much more apparent. The helicopter returned to base camp and during the course of the day Mark Thomas and the three climbers with him were flown out to Pithoragarh.
It is hoped that a further recce flight can be undertaken on Monday 3rd June. An update to this statement will follow when the flight is completed and we have more information.
The BMG will continue to do everything possible to support all those involved including next of kin of the missing climbers and our own members and their families.
Mark Charlton, Nigel Shepherd and John Cousins
Note: This news piece originally carried a placeholder image of Lhotse. This has now been replaced with an image of Nanda Devi (c) Paul Hamilton https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/