Searches on a treacherous mountain in Pakistan for a Highland climber missing have been called off – although drone monitoring will continue.
Tom Ballard, 30, whose family lived in Lochaber until his teens, was climbing the world’s ninth highest mountain, 26,660ft Nanga Parbat, known as “Killer Mountain”, with Italian Daniele Nardi when he disappeared.
The experienced climber was in the midst of attempting to accomplish some of the world’s toughest mountains – a trait his record-breaking mother Alison Hargreaves shared, becoming the first woman to scale Mount Everest alone.
Aged just 33, she sadly died on her descent of the K2 in 1995, the second highest mountain in the world, however, her body was never found.
>> Keep up to date with the latest news with The P&J newsletter
The pair set out on their trek on February 22 and last made contact on February 24.
It is feared they may have perished after being hit by a huge avalanche.
Two Pakistani mountaineers were with the pair but had decided to turn back because they thought it was too dangerous.
As concerns grew for their welfare, the Pakistan Army dispatched two helicopters as a wide-scale search was launched to help trace the pair.
Experienced Pakistan climbers have also been carrying out searches from base camp as well as climbing to higher peaks.
Spaniard Alex Txikon was flown in from K2 to assist in the search, with attempts being made on Friday to bring in three drones to help continue the search.
However, as harsh conditions swept across the area, there was significant delays in their deployment.
Karrar Haidri, secretary of the Alpine Club of Pakistan, said search teams had used a drone but “no sign of the climbers was found”.
He said search efforts will continue today and that “prayers are needed for the climbers”.
More than £121,753 has been so far been raised by friends of the pair in just a matter of days following the launch of a GoFundMe page.
As news of the decision broke, big-name adventurers took to social media to share their devastation.
Broadcaster Ben Fogle said: “Desperately sad news as Tom Ballard and Daniele Nardi are assumed dead as the search for the missing climbers on Nanga Parbat is called off.”
Meanwhile, author and motivational speaker Alastair Humphreys added: “The search for climber Tom Ballard has been called off.
“My heart goes out to his sister and dad who have now lost both Tom and mum Alison to high-altitude mountaineering. So very sad.”