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Italian Climbers Still Trapped at 6600m

The two mountaineers on Nanga Parbat, Walter Nones and Simon Kerhrer, are tired and showing signs of wear from their lasting stay at altitude. Today the climbers had plans to attempt descent to 6000m, but till midday, visibility was zero (read the July 22, 2008 NewsWire for more background on this story). They decided, due to conditions, to stay in their bivouac. “A good choice,” says Silvio Mondinelli, one of the rescuers in base camp. “The glacier is full of deep crevasses. With no sight it is very dangerous to cross.” Ironically, the team in base camp is experiencing quite good weather. Rescuers were able to see the summit, but around the glaciers between 6000-7000m, clouds and fog are trapping the alpinists.

In base camp, everything is ready for a high-altitude Lama helicopter rescue once Kehrer and Nones get down to 6000m, where it would be possible to land the helicopter safely and load the climbers. A longline rescue is also being discussed. But that will be very difficult, says Gerold Biner, chief pilot of Air Zermatt. The Swiss pilot and mountain rescue specialist assisted with the rescue of Tomaz Humar, who was nearly dead on the Rupal Face in 2005. “We were called to assist the Pakistani Army for the rescue mission, but they managed to pick up Tomaz before we could fly up to Nanga Parbat base camp. After the rescue of Humar, we kept in contact with the pilots, and they also came to Switzerland for an exchange of experience. During a longline course with Swiss rescue specialists they discovered how much is needed to do safe longline rescues. It is possible at that altitude, but it will be very difficult.” Whether the pilots who are in Nanga Parbat base camp at this point are willing or able to perform a longline rescue at 6600m is unclear.

The ideal option would be for the two alpinists to descend to 6000m. Unfortunately, due to the weather, they are not making much progress. This morning Nones contacted base camp again. “His voice was clear, but timid and worried”, Maurizio Gallo says. “Ten days and nine nights on the mountain are starting to leave scars on the guys.” More information will be posted as it becomes available.

Sources: and