Derby

Tom Ballard: 'Silhouettes' spotted in missing climber search

Tom Ballard and Daniele Nardi Image copyright Daniele Nardi
Image caption Tom Ballard and Daniele Nardi before their last contact with their team

"Silhouettes" have been spotted on the passage taken by two missing climbers on a mountain in Pakistan.

Briton Tom Ballard and Italian Daniele Nardi last made contact from Nanga Parbat in Pakistan at an altitude of about 20,700ft (6,300m), 11 days ago.

The search has resumed despite reports the men were "assumed to be dead" following a "huge avalanche".

Earlier, Spanish climber Alex Txikon saw the two "shapes" on the Mummery Spur trail that the men had taken.

According to Mr Nardi's Facebook page, which is updated by his support team, Mr Txikon identified "two silhouettes" on the mountain from the base camp early on Thursday.

A Pakistani army helicopter was due to investigate them further, but they were diverted for military purposes, according to Stefano Pontecorvo, the Italian ambassador to Pakistan.

Mr Pontecorvo, who had earlier denied reports the search had ended, said it was a "possibility" the shapes are the two men.

He has told the BBC that a helicopter search will probably resume on Friday.

On Wednesday, Karrar Haidri, from Pakistan's Alpine Club, said it had been a "painful decision" to end the search.

However, Mr Pontecorvo strongly denied the rescue was over.

Image copyright Montane
Image caption Tom Ballard has been described as one of the world's best climbers

He said: "Until they tell me that there is no scope to continue I'd say that together with the family I'd encourage them to go forward.

"If we come to a point in which everything possible has been done and nothing has been found, at that point it will be up to the families - although advised by us - to call it off. We're not there yet."

Analysis: BBC World Affairs reporter Richard Galpin

Image copyright Google
Image caption Nanga Parbat, the ninth highest peak in the world, is known as "Killer Mountain"

The rescue team in Pakistan is expected to make another attempt to scour the mountain for any trace of them.

The two climbers went missing 11 days ago on what's known as the Killer Mountain and nothing has been heard from them since.

The rescue mission was expected to finish on Wednesday and the base camp was dismantled.

But members of the rescue team are now due to be taken high up the mountain by helicopter to look at areas they'd not searched previously.

The BBC's been told they will take high resolution photographs and video which can then be analysed.

The team leader, a Spanish climber, is to leave the area soon to return to his winter expedition on K2.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Tom Ballard's mother Alison Hargreaves on her descent from the top Everest, which she reached unaided in 1995

Mr Ballard, originally from Belper in Derbyshire, is the son of Alison Hargreaves, who died descending from the summit of K2 in 1995 - the same year she became the first woman to conquer Everest unaided.

Ahead of her death, he had moved to Fort William in Lochaber in the Scottish Highlands with his sister Kate and father Jim.

Last week, experienced Pakistani mountaineer Ali Sadpara, who was in an army helicopter, announced seeing a tent "invaded by snow" and "traces of an avalanche".

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