The bodies of Tom Ballard, 30, of Britain, and Daniele Nardi, 42, of Italy, were spotted through a telescope above Camp III on Nanga Parbat’s Mummery Rib at around 5900 meters on March 9. A BBC.com story posted today, March 11, quoted Italian Ambassador to Pakistan Stefano Pontecorvo as saying there might be a possibility of recovering the bodies by a helicopter long-line operation.
The climbers hadn’t been heard from since February 24. They were attempting to complete a new route up the Mummery Rib, which goes up the center of the Diamir Face and is prone to falling seracs and avalanches. Their last known location was above 6000 meters. Winter storms, avalanches and a border conflict between India and Pakistan hampered the search efforts since then.
A team of Pakistani climbers that included Muhammad Ali Sadpara, Imtiaz Hussain and Dilawar Hussain were helicoptered to Nanga Parbat’s base camp on February 28, according to a report that day by Michael Levy on RockandIce.com. More climbers from two teams attempting a winter ascent of K2 (8611m)–including Alex Txikon, of Spain–were flown in on March 4 after an aborted landing on March 3, when the helicopters had been unable to land in foggy weather and had to return to Skardu.
Sadpara and Txikon already knew the mountain well, as they completed the first winter ascent of Nanga Parbat with Simone Moro, of Italy, in 2016. But they were not able to climb higher than Camp II as they searched for traces of Ballard and Nardi because of the high avalanche danger, and Txikon reported a near miss on their first day of searching on his Facebook page. From their high point, they used drones to scout higher on the mountain but weren’t able to find any trace of the missing climbers until March 9.
A story by Vinicio Stefanello on PlanetMountain.com reports on Nardi’s extensive experience on 8000-meter peaks and indicates that this was his fifth attempt to climb Nanga Parbat in winter. Stefanello wrote:
Finding the strength and constancy to try again every year…knowing exactly what lay in store, is not normal. It is certainly a sign of an incredible passion that perhaps goes beyond the “normal” parameters of mountaineering. Nanga Parbat in winter, but also the legendary Mummery Rib, was something that Nardi could not, evidently, do without…. The immense efforts spent during those long days on the mountain will remain fever etched.
A story by Gaia Pianigiani in the New York Times reads:
Mr. Nardi’s relatives, who have expressed their pain on social media, thanked the search-and-rescue team, the Italian and Pakistani authorities and anyone who had collaborated on the search for their tireless efforts in the past weeks.
In a Facebook post, they repeated Mr. Nardi’s words: “I’d like to be remembered as a man who tried to do something incredible, impossible, but didn’t give up and if I won’t return I’d like to give a message to my son: Don’t stop, don’t give up, do your thing because the world needs better people to make peace a reality and not just an idea.”
Ballard is the son of revered alpinist Alison Hargreaves, who was the first woman to summit Everest without bottled oxygen in 1995 (she died a few months later while attempting K2). Ballard, at 26-years-old, became the first person to solo all six of the Alps’ major north faces–Cima Grande di Lavaredo, Piz Badile, Matterhorn, Grandes Jorasses, Petit Dru, and Eiger–in a single winter. He was inspired by his mother, who was the first woman to solo the faces (she did so during the summer). In 2016, Ballard established one of the hardest dry tool routes ever done, a Line Above the Sky (D15), and completed the first ascent of Titanic (M5 5.10c A3 WI4, 1800m) on the Eiger with Marcin Tomaszewksi.
In a story posted February 28 on RockandIce.com, titled “Memories of Alison Hargreaves,” Alison Osius wrote:
Over the years I was perhaps a bit concerned but largely gratified to read that her son Tom, only 6 years old when she died at 33, was a climber and alpinist (his sister Kate, who was 4 at the time, is a climber and snowboarder, and both grew up skiing)–and in time became a very accomplished and highly regarded one.
His father, Jim Ballard, said in a 2015 documentary, “TOM,” “Tom never wanted to be anything else, for as long as he can remember, but a climber. That’s what he is.”
Our previous coverage of the search efforts can be found here.