Fears For Australian Climber Among 8 Missing In Himalayas
An Australian woman and her seven international climbing companions are missing, feared dead, in the Nanda Devi sanctuary in India's Himalayas following an avalanche.
A rescue team is trekking towards the 7434-metre Nanda Devi East peak on foot and it's hoped clearer weather on Sunday will allow some searchers to be flown in.
Sydney woman Ruth McCance is missing along with British team leader Martin Moran, three other men from the United Kingdom, two people from the United States and an Indian liaison officer.
The eight adventurers were part of a 12-member expedition attempting to summit a previously unclimbed route up Nanda Devi East.
"We always have hope but to be practical, we have to be prepared for bad news," Indian Mountaineering Foundation spokesman Amid Chowdhury told AAP on Saturday.
The team trekked into the heart of the Nanda Devi sanctuary "with the ambition of summitting a virgin peak", adventure company Moran Mountain said in a Facebook post on May 12.
The complete trip was expected to take about 24 days.
The company on May 22 wrote the team had reached its second base camp at almost 5000 metres above sea level and "after a recce of the route, they will be making a summit attempt on an unclimbed peak at 6477m".
The expedition's British deputy leader, Mark Thomas, remained at the second base camp with three others, according to Chowdhury, but was in radio contact with the group of eight that pushed higher.
But when Thomas didn't hear anything after May 26 he went up to look for them. He reportedly found a single unoccupied tent.
"Beyond that area, there was evidence of a large avalanche," Chowdhury said.
"For eight people, there should definitely have been more tents. I would expect at least three more tents to have been there."
Satellite phones aren't allowed in the border region without special permission due to security concerns, so at least one team member had to trek down to alert authorities, who were finally notified on Friday.
A rescue team of up to 20 people -- including members of the Indian-Tibetan border police and the state disaster management force -- left Munsiyari on Saturday morning local time, Chowdhury said.
But it will take them at least three days on foot to reach the avalanche site, which is thought to be at 5200 metres.
Poor weather has so far made it impossible to send a helicopter closer to the site, but it's hoped two rescue mountaineers may be flown in on Sunday if conditions improve, Chowdhury added.
District official Vijay Kumar Jogdande sounded more hopeful regarding the climbers' fate when he told German newswire dpa: "We think they might be stuck on the way somewhere".
Australia's foreign affairs department said it's providing consular assistance to the family of an Australian who "may be among a group of trekkers missing in the Nanda Devi area of India".
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