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Unterkircher Presumed Dead; Teammates Fighting Blizzard

“We are okay and will descend via the Buhl Route.” These are the words of Italian alpinists Simon Kehrer and Walter Nones, whose friend and colleague, Karl Unterkircher, fell into a crevasse at ca. 6400 meters five days ago on Nanga Parbat (8126m), Himalaya, Pakistan (read the July 16, 2008 NewsWire for more information). Kehrer and Nones were unable to perform a rescue; it is presumed that Unterkircher, extreme alpinist and chief of the rescue service in the Dolomites, is dead. He leaves behind a wife and three children.

The team was attempting a new route on the Rakhiot Face of Nanga Parbat after their success on Chongra Peak (read the July 10, 2008 NewsWire for details). Since Unterkircher’s fall nearly a week ago, Kehrer and Nones have been trapped on the mountain, unable to rappel due to the severity of the route. They climbed on, but poor weather severed their contact with base camp. Meanwhile, Italian friends Maurizio Gallo and Silvio Mondinelli rushed to Pakistan to provide support from base camp.

The Pakistan army also is present in base camp with a helicopter for support. They hoped to perform a longline rescue for Kehrer and Nones (Tomaz Humar was evacuated off Nanga Parbat’s Rupal Face by helicopter in 2005 –Ed.), but altitude forced the helicopter to drop a satellite phone at ca. 7000 meters instead. Having retrieved the phone, the pair contacted Gallo and Mondinelli yesterday, July 20, then made contact again today.

Kerher and Nones say they are now on the Bazin glacier at ca. 7000m and will bivouac tonight with enough provisions. Tomorrow they hope to beat back a blizzard that has overtaken the mountain and continue descending via the Buhl Route, the line of first ascent in 1953.