- A team of eight mountaineers had gone missing late last month
- The rescue team is still trying to find eighth body in the snow
- Earlier efforts were hampered due to bad weather and avalanches
A rescue team has recovered seven bodies believed to be of a group of mountaineers who went missing while climbing the Nanda Devi peak late last month, news agency PTI quoted an official as saying today.
The bodies, found by a team of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), are likely to be transported to the district headquarters at Pithoragarh by chopper. A search was still on for the eighth body, Deputy Inspector General APS Nimbadia told PTI.
The team, including seven mountaineers from the United Kingdom, United States and Australia, had left Munsiyari to scale the 7,434-metre peak on May 13. The Indian Air Force and the ITBP were helping in the rescue efforts, which have been on for over three weeks since then. Although Air Force choppers sighted five bodies near an unscaled peak on the mountain's western ridge on June 3, bad weather has been hampering rescue efforts ever since. On June 16, authorities said fresh avalanches could have buried the bodies further under the snow.
"After five hours of continuous effort, ITBP mountaineers were able to retrieve these seven bodies and keep them in a safe place nearby. Some mountaineering equipment was also recovered from the site," another official told NDTV.
The ill-fated team of mountaineers comprised John McLaren, Rupert Whewell, Richard Payne, Anthony Sudekum, Ronald Beimel, Ruth McCance and Chetan Pandey. They were led by British mountaineering expert Martin Moran, who had already scaled the peak twice in the past.
The eight mountaineers had reportedly taken an untested route without permission, resulting in the tragedy. Officials told NDTV that although Martin Moran's team was supposed to climb only till the second base camp, they later announced plans to attempt an "unclimbed peak" about 6,477 metres high. "This mountain range is more difficult to scale than Mount Everest. They knowingly risked their lives by changing their plans without informing the authorities," an official involved in the operation said on the condition of anonymity, terming such deviations from approved routes as "completely illegal".
The team of 10 ITBP rescue workers was airdropped along with supplies at the Nanda Devi base camp by an MI-17 helicopter of the Air Force on June 14. They had to undergo mandatory acclimatisation procedures for operating in altitudes of over 15,000 feet before taking up the exercise.
Air Force helicopters also assisted in the operation, named "Daredevil", which had begun a week ago, PTI quoted Mr Nimbadia as saying.
(With inputs from PTI)