Five bodies spotted by pilots searching for missing mountain climbers

Five bodies are spotted by air force pilots searching for eight mountain climbers including Britons and Americans who vanished after avalanche in Himalayas

Air force pilots have spotted five bodies while searching for eight missing mountain climbers in the Himalayas. 

A team of eight mountaineers including Britons and Americans went missing on May 31 after a devastating avalanche on Nanda Devi, India’s second highest peak.

Today, District Magistrate Dr Vijay Kumar Jogdande said the bodies were found before a rescue operation in the northern state of Uttarakhand in India was suspended because of heavy snowfall and high winds.

Martin Moran, who is originally from Tyneside, was leading the party of eight who were attempting to reach the top of an unclimbed peak in a remote area.

Dr Jogdande says an operation to find the other three mountaineers will resume on Tuesday.

He said officials are consulting with the Indian army on how to retrieve the bodies.

Four missing British climbers huddled for a photograph to capture the start of their 25,000ft ascent up the Himalayan mountains – on which they would vanish days later. Pictured: Rupert Whewell (back row, second from left), Martin Moran (back row, sixth from left), Richard Payne (back row, fourth from right) and John McLaren (back row, third from right)

The eight-member expedition set out to scale a 6,477-metre peak and had last been in touch with base camp on May 26. 

Contact was lost after an avalanche.

Dr Jogdande says four British climbers rescued from base camp on Sunday received first aid at a hospital before being released.

The climbers huddled for a photograph to capture the start of their 25,000ft ascent up the Himalayan mountains – on which they would vanish days later. 

On May 13, the group bunched together and smiled as they prepared to embark on the mammoth challenge, unaware that in 18 days time they would drop off the map. 

This eight-man team includes UK nationals Martin Moran – the lead mountaineer – John McLaren, Rupert Whewell and Richard Payne.  

Martin Moran, who is originally from Tyneside, was the leader of the party of eight mountaineers

Martin Moran (right), who is originally from Tyneside, was leading the party of eight that included Rupert Whewell (left) who were attempting to reach the top of an unclimbed summit in a remote area

Americans Anthony Sudekum and Ronald Beimel, Australian Ruth McCance and Indian guide Chetan Pandey are also missing.

Two helicopters were scrambled to search for the climbers after they vanished on Friday.

But bad weather reportedly saw the hunt temporarily stood down. 

Although two groups of eight merged for the picture, they split back off into two separate teams for the ascent. The second team reportedly ventured on to another peak. 

Martin Moran, who is originally from Tyneside, was leading the party of eight who were attempting to reach the top of an unclimbed summit in a remote area.

While his family said it was ‘not entirely clear’ what had happened to the group – which included another three British climbers – they said there was ‘clear evidence that a sizeable avalanche had occurred on the mountain’. 

Britons Richard Payne – a York University lecturer – and John McLaren (right) are among the eight missing following an avalanche

Mr Moran has been a mountain guide since 1985 and set up his company Moran Mountain, which is based in Strathcarron in the Highlands, together with his wife Joy – with the couple’s grown up children Hazel and Alex both also working with the family business.

Searches have been taking place in a bid to find the missing climbers after the alarm was raised on Friday morning.

In a statement, the Moran family said: ‘We are deeply saddened by the tragic events unfolding in the Nanda Devi region of the Indian Himalayas.

British mountaineer and group leader Martin Moran (left) has been reported missing after his team didn’t return to base camp on Friday at Nanda Devi, India’s second highest mountain. (Pictured) Friend of 20 years Nigel Vardy who said Mr Moran is an ‘experienced climber’ 

A Facebook post from their second base camp, at 16,000 feet, said the group were going to try to scale a previously unclimbed peak

‘As a family, we share the same emotions that all next of kin are experiencing in not knowing the whereabouts or well-being of those closest to us.’

Academic Richard Payne from the University of York is believed to be among the group of missing climbers.

The university said it was ‘extremely concerned for his safety’, adding: ‘Our thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues at this difficult time.’  

Ruth McCance, from Sydney, and seven other climbers failed to return to base camp at Nanda Devi, the second highest mountain in India

The group, which is led by experienced UK-based climber Martin Moran, last shared updates to social media on May 22. ‘The Nanda Devi team has reached their second base camp at 4870m, their home for the next week,’ the update said

‘We do know that a British mountain guide who was in the area leading a trekking group, as part of the same expedition, was informed that the climbing group had not returned to base camp as expected.

‘He immediately went on the mountain to search for the missing climbers.

‘There was clear evidence that a sizeable avalanche had occurred on the mountain and it seemed to be on or very near the route that would be taken by the climbing group.

‘The mountain guide gave instructions to base camp to alert rescue authorities. The alarm was raised early on Friday morning, May 31.’

Ms McCance’s group includes three men from the UK, two American men and an Indian guide

The Morans said they were ‘grateful to the Indian Mountaineering Foundation who are coordinating search and rescue efforts on the ground and in the air under extremely difficult conditions in a very remote area of the Himalayas’.

They added: ‘Today we have been informed by the Indian Mountaineering Federation that an air search by helicopter has revealed the scale of the avalanche but no sign of the climbers, their equipment nor their tents.

‘We are pressing for the search area to be widened and continued until such time as firm evidence is found to ascertain the well-being or otherwise of all those in the climbing group.’

A spokesperson from The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade told Daily Mail Australia they are in communication with the family of an Australian

Indian authorities also confirmed they had airlifted four other climbers off the mountain today. They opted not to leave base camp with the group of eight who are still missing.  

Climber Nigel Vardy, who has known Mr Moran for 20 years, described him as ‘an absolute professional and genuinely a really, really nice guy’.

He said: ‘Martin is a fantastic guy but if the weather and the conditions are not with you, then no matter how skilled you are the mountain is going to have its way.’

At Mount Everest, where queuing chaos has been blamed for fatalities, 11 climbers lost their lives 13 days. Pictured: Climbers queue to stand on the summit of Everest on May 22

Mark Charlton, president of the British Association of Mountain Guides (BMG), said in a post on the organisation’s Facebook page that Mr Moran had been leading six clients and an Indian national.

‘The BMG is assisting where possible and is in contact with the Indian authorities,’ he said.

‘At the moment this is all the information we have as communication is very difficult.’

A spokeswoman for the Foreign Office said: ‘We are in contact with the Indian authorities following reports that a number of British nationals are missing in the Indian Himalayas.

‘We will do all we can to assist any British people who need our help.’

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