A rescue helicopter spotted five bodies on Nanda Devi, in the Indian Himalayas, during a search operation aiming to find eight climbers who went missing after the mountain was struck by several avalanches.
The helicopter crew saw the bodies as they searched the area around India’s second highest peak, looking for a group of climbers that included four Britons (Martin Moran, John McLaren, Rupert Whewell, and Dr. Richard Payne), two Americans (Anthony Sudekum and Ronald Beimel), one Australian national (Ruth McCance) and one Indian guide (Chetan Pandey). According to the BBC, the missing alpinists had not been heard of since May 26, just a day before the mountain was hit by an avalanche. A source told AFP that the search and rescue team saw the bodies on the same route which the group of adventurers had taken.
The missing climbers were part of a larger group that was attempting to summit the 25,640-feet peak, with four of their colleagues having been rescued on Sunday. These four climbers had decided to turn back earlier due to bad weather conditions. They were the last people to be in contact with the missing group, which was led by seasoned British mountain guide Martin Moran, the founder of Moran Mountains, a company that was known for running several mountaineering expeditions in the Himalayas.
According to CNN, the group was reportedly trying to climb an unnamed peak on the east side of Nanda Devi. This peak had allegedly never been conquered, and is thought to be about 6,477 meters (21,250 feet) above sea level. But Indian authorities said, on Monday, that the expedition company did not have permission to climb said unnamed peak. Pithoragarh District Magistrate Vijay Kumar Jogdande stated that if officials knew the group intended on climbing that route — instead of Nanda Devi East — they “would not have given permission.” Search and rescue teams were contacted when the eight climbers failed to return to their base camp.
Jogdande said that the missing team was most likely struck by a “huge avalanche,” and that “the chances of survival are almost zero now.” While bad weather conditions had made it harder for the search teams to find the climbers, their bodies were identified in a series of photographs taken by a search and rescue helicopter. Local authorities are now coming up with a plan to retrieve the bodies.
Equipment/ Backpack and bodies seen in open/ partially buried in snow through aerial view (Helicopter) today near the unclimbed peak where the 8 missing mountaineers who were reported heading towards Nanda Devi East at around 20000 ft. Pics- Pithoragarh Admn. Put out by ITBP pic.twitter.com/eTjnr10bpK— Bharti Jain (@bhartijainTOI) June 3, 2019
“As a family, we share the same emotions that all next of kin are experiencing in not knowing the whereabouts or well-being of those closest to us,” a statement by the Moran family read, per CNN.
This year’s climbing season has been particularly tough for mountaineers in the Himalayas, with several climbers dying while attempting to summit other popular peaks — such as Everest — as was previously reported by The Inquisitr.