IMF team to set off to retrieve climbers' bodies

Pithoragarh: In this undated file photo, foreign team members missing in Nanda Devi East before their expedition are seen in Pithoragarh, Tuesday, June 4, 2019. (PTI Photo) (PTI6_4_2019_000180B)

A 14-member team of mountaineer will set off Tuesday via the land route to retrieve the bodies of five climbers who died on way to the Nanda Devi East peak last month.

The Indian Mountaineering Foundation will send the team from Pindari glacier side in Bageshwar district, said Bageshwar Superintendent of police Lokeshwar Singh.

The district police will give all the logistic support to the IMF team to conduct the operation, he said.

The bodies were spotted by IAF helicopters on June 3 near an unscaled peak close to the Nanda Devi East peak, said Singh.

The decision to bring back the bodies by the land route was taken last week following IAF helicopters' repeated failure to retrieve them amid the high altitude turbulence and bad weather.

The IMF had sought the state government's permission for the expedition before the onset of monsoon which could make the task more challenging.

An eight-member team of mountaineers, including seven foreign nationals, on its way to Nanda Devi East peak in Pithoragarh district in Uttarakhand, was reported missing since May 25.

The bodies were spotted on June 3 by IAF helicopters near an unscaled peak close to the Nanda Devi East peak, said Singh.

The three other mountaineers are yet to be traced.

The team was led by well-known British climber Martin Moran. It included three other climbers from the UK, two from the US and one from Australia, besides an officer from the Indian Mountaineering Foundation, New Delhi.

The missing climbers are Martin Moran, John McLaren, Richard Payne and Rupert Havel from the UK, Anthony Sudecam and Rachel Bimmel from the US, Ruth Macrain from Australia and IMF's Chetan Pandey.

The team had left Munsiyari near Pithoragarh on May 13 to scale the Nanda Devi East peak but did not return to the base camp on May 25 as scheduled.

The team had started from Munsiyari about 132 km from the district headquarters.

Pithoragarh District Magistrate Vijay Kumar Jogdande had said Thursday that the IAF choppers repeated bid to retrieve the bodies failed due to inclement weather and the treacherous terrain.

Accordingly, it has been decided to try to retrieve them through the land route for which a joint team of personnel from the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, the National Disaster Relief Force and the State Disaster Relief Force has been formed, he had said.

But it may take three to four days for the rescue team to make the preparations and undergo the requisite training before launching the expedition, he had added.

The district magistrate had said retrieving the bodies may turn out to be a long process taking up to a month or more owing to difficult geographical terrain, he had said.

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