Italy’s ambassador to Pakistan has confirmed the deaths of two missing European mountain climbers on Nanga Parbat, the world’s ninth-tallest mountain.
The search for Briton Tom Ballard and Italian Daniele Nardi ended after an aerial search team confirmed that silhouettes spotted at a height of about 5,900 meters (6,455 yards) were the bodies of the two climbers.
Ambassador Stefano Pontecorvo tweeted the news on Saturday, after Pakistani army helicopters with four rescuers had searched the mountain for days.
Ballard, 30, was the son of British climber Alison Hargreaves, the first woman to scale Mount Everest alone. She died at age 33 descending the summit of K2 in 1995.
Tom Ballard, 30, has been confirmed dead along with his Italian climbing partner Daniele Nardi. The pair had not made contact since February 24 when they were 20,000ft up Nanga Parbat
Tom (pictured above) from Derbyshire, is an experienced climber and the first person to solo climb all six major north faces of the Alps in one winter
Ballard, 30, (right) was the son of British climber Alison Hargreaves (centre) who died climbing in the same region in 1995
Alison Hargreaves and Jim Ballard with their children Tom and his sister Kate before her fatal descent of the mountain in 1995
Ballard was a skilled climber, in 2015 becoming the first person to solo climb all six major north faces of the Alps in one winter. Nardi, 42, from near Rome, had attempted to scale Nanga Parbat in winter several times.
The pair set out on the climb on February 22, making it to the fourth base camp by the following day, but they last made contact on February 24 from an elevation of around 20,700ft (6,300m) on Nanga Parbat.
Ambassador Stefano Pontecorvo tweeted: ‘With great sadness I inform that the search for @NardiDaniele and Tom Ballard is over as @AlexTxikon and the search team have confirmed that the silhouettes spotted on Mummery at about 5900 meters are those of Daniele and Tom. R.I.P.’
He said the bodies are in a place that is difficult to reach but that everything possible will be done to try to recover them.
Search plans were prevented on Thursday when Pakistan closed its air space after it shot down two Indian military planes, but two army helicopters were eventually drafted in.
Ballard’s sister Kate, father Jim and Italian girlfriend Stefania Pederiva had been waiting for news of him, and Pederiva’s mother said that she has been ‘crying constantly’ since learning that he was missing.
Temperatures plunged to minus 40C and winds at 200mph on the Nanga Parbat range were Ballard and Nardi went missing, and search efforts were delayed amid tensions between India and Pakistan
The bodies of Tom Ballard (pictured left) and 42-year-old Italian Daniele Nardi (right) were found on Nanga Parbat
Ballard (right) and Nardi (left) were confirmed dead on Saturday by Italy’s Ambassador to Pakistan. Mr Nardi’s team posted a tribute on their official Facebook page saying they ‘heartbroken’
Ballard (pictured) and Nardi were trying to climb ‘Killer Mountain’ in Pakistan, the ninth highest in world
Ballard was born in Derbyshire but moved to Scotland in the same year his mother, Alison Hargreaves, died on K2 when she was 33 after becoming the first woman to conquer Everest unaided.
In the summer of 1993 she also became the first person to climb the notoriously perilous six great north faces of the Alps solo in a single season. The climb then inspired her book which was titled ‘A Hard Day’s Summer’.
Ballard was just six-years-old when his mother died but went on to follow in her footsteps and in 2015 he became the first person to climb the north faces alone in a winter season. His sister is also a mountaineer.
Although Ballard was really able to scale mountains with his mother, it is said that Alison had been six months pregnant with him when she scaled the treacherous north face of Eiger.
Despite being dubbed ‘Killer Mountain’ because of its dangerous conditions, the summit of Nanga Parbat has long drawn climbers.
Located in Pakistan’s Gilgit Baltistan area, it is the ninth highest mountain in the world at 26,660ft (8,126m).
Ambassador Pontecorvo said the search team involving the Spaniards this week captured photos of the silhouettes and analysis confirmed that they were the missing climbers.
Mr Nardi’s team posted a tribute on their official Facebook page.
A rescue team confirmed that silhouettes spotted at a height of about 5,900 meters (6,455 yards) were those of the two climbers
A map of the Nanga Parbat mountains in Pakistan (pictured above) which shows where Tom went missing and where his mother went missing in 1995
They wrote: ‘We’re heartbroken; we inform you that the research of Daniele and Tom has ended. A part of them will always remain on the Nanga Parbat.’
They added: ‘The family remembers Tom as a competent alpinist and brave friend of Daniele. Our thoughts are with him.
‘Daniele will remain a husband, a father, a son, a brother and a friend lost for a dream that we have always accepted, respected and shared.
‘We like to remember how you really are: in love with life, adventurous, scrupulous, courageous, loyal, attentive to detail and always present in times of need.’
Karrar Haidri, the secretary of the Alpine Club of Pakistan, said the search team, headed by Spaniard Alex Txikon and experienced Pakistani mountaineer Ali Sadpara familiar with the peak, went on foot and used drones to search for the climbers.
Tom Ballard, 30, was reported missing earlier this week on the notorious K2 peak in the Pakistani Himalayas
Pictures from Tom’s Instagram account detail his various training efforts for his climbs where he seems to be having a great time getting to grips with different heights
The mountain (pictured above) which Tom and his friend Daniele had been scaling before they failed to make contact
In an interview with the Telegraph newspaper published before the news of Tom broke, his father Jim Ballard said Alison would have watched their son go into mountaineering ‘with gritted teeth’.
‘But she would have been – no, she is – proud of what he has achieved,’ he added.
‘I hang on to that idea that Alison loved so much. “It is better to live one day as tiger than a thousand years as a sheep”, Mr Ballard said.
Sandy Allan, a family friend of the Ballards from Newtonmore in the Highlands, has climbed Nanga Parbat twice and previously admitted he was worried about the ‘competent mountaineer’.
He told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme: ‘I knew Tom when he was younger and I’d climbed with him and his mother, Tom’s an exceptional climber, he’s not done a great deal in the Himalayas but he’s done enough to know how to look after himself very well.
‘Some people thought Tom was a little bit of a loner but he climbed to a very high standard and I suppose a lot of his routes were quite esoteric.
‘But he’s a normal human being with a passion for climbing.
‘It’s a lot colder and that makes it incredibly uncomfortable but if you’re a climber like Tom, it’s one of the big challenges for people to do so I can understand why he’d want to go there.’
Nanga Parbat and why it’s named the ‘Killer Mountain’
Nanga Parbat is one of the world’s tallest mountain ranges standing at 26,600 feet/ 8,126 metres high. It is situated in the western Himalayas in the Pakistani sector of the Kashmir region.
The drop on the north side of the mountain is a huge 23,000 feet to the Indus River with its steep walls rising nearly 15,000 feet above the valley below.
The mountain is also known as ‘Diamir’ which is a local term for the peak which translates to ‘king of mountains’.
But why is the mountain nicknamed the ‘Killer Mountain’?
In 1985 British Alpine climber Albert F Mummery led the first attempt to ascend the snow covered mountain but died in the attempt.
Since then at least 30 more climbers have also perished on the mountain due to its severe weather conditions and frequent avalanches.
Other expeditions were also led with the first German scale taking place in 1932 by Willy Merkel. The team were strong climbers but bad weather prevented the team making progress beyond the Rakhiot Peak which is northeast of Nanga Parbat’s summit.
He then led another in 1934 which was better financed however early on one of the team, Alfred Drexel, died while the others suffered from altitude exposure and severe frostbite.
In 1937 Karl Wien led another expedition – progress was made but due to heavy snowfall near enough the whole team was overrun by an avalanche, sixteen men died.
However in 1953 Austrian climber Hermann Buhl managed to successfully reach the top of the mountain.