NANDA DEVI EAST / SEVEN BODIES RECOVERED

Nanda Khat, Peak 6477 and Nanda Devi (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

IMF team also reaches accident spot / Please scroll down for updates

Late evening June 23, the media reported that a team of the Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), dispatched to recover the bodies of climbers believed to have met with an avalanche on Peak 6477 near Nanda Devi East, has recovered seven bodies from under the snow.

According to a senior ITBP official quoted in the report, the bodies were found “ on the western ridge of the peak towards the Pindari Glacier.”  Peak 6477 is on the ridge continuing from Nanda Khat towards Nanda Devi East. It is on the outer wall of the Nanda Devi sanctuary; Nanda Khat is close to the Pindari Glacier.

The fully linked line shows the route taken by the IMF team, which commenced its walk-in from Khati on June 12. The dotted line shows the route taken by the ITBP team, which was air-dropped to Nanda Devi East Base Camp on the Johar side, on June 15. The Base Camp, ABC and Camp 1 mentioned on the map refer to the IMF team’s progress from the Pindari Glacier side. This map is an approximation and is not to scale (Illustration: Shyam G Menon)

The bodies, including that of a woman, have not been formally identified. That will be possible once the bodies are brought down to base camp, the reports said.

It was in end-May that news broke of eight climbers (seven from overseas plus the team’s liaison officer from India), part of an expedition that had set out to attempt Nanda Devi East, reported missing following avalanche on Peak 6477. The expedition was led by well-known British mountaineer and mountain guide, Martin Moran.

In subsequent search operations, helicopter sorties by the Indian Air Force (with some of the surviving members of the expedition aboard to refine area of search) had sighted five bodies in the snow and ample evidence of avalanche.

Besides a large team composed of personnel from ITBP, State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) dispatched from the Munsyari side, the Indian Mountaineering Foundation (IMF) had also sent a team for recovery operations. The latter headed up from the Pindari Glacier side.

For more reports providing background, please refer the list of articles on this blog dating from end-May.

Update / June 25: The IMF team has also reached the site where the bodies have been located by ITBP. “ They will now join the ITBP in searching for the eighth body and work out a joint plan for bringing the bodies back,” a senior IMF official informed today.

The 12 member-IMF team started walking from Khati village on June 12.  They approached the accident site from the Pindari Glacier side while the ITBP team was dropped by Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopters at the Nanda Devi East Base Camp (on the Johar side accessed from Munsyari) on June 15.

“ Bad weather has given both teams a difficult time and while the ITBP team reached the site on Sunday, the IMF team got there today,” the official informed.

Update / June 30: According to reliable sources, the Indian Air Force (IAF) having identified a spot at 15,500 feet in the Lavan Valley, where a helicopter can land, carried out a trial landing. The ITBP and disaster management personnel will take 2-3 days to carry the bodies to this location on foot. From there, the bodies will be airlifted to Pithoragarh. It is also understood that the camps of the IMF team, spread over the south side in the Pindari Valley, are being wound up and the team will be moving down.

In a separate development, two media reports, one quoting the district magistrate of Pithoragarh and the other quoting a senior ITBP official, said that the search for the eighth climber has been “ abandoned.”

(The author, Shyam G Menon, is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.)