Crowdfunding campaign help search for climbers continue

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More than £118,000 has been raised to continue the search for two climbers – including Scot Tom Ballard – who went missing on a peak in Pakistan.

Mr Ballard, who was born and brought up in Fort William, and Italian Daniele Nardi last made contact from Nanga Parbat on February 24.

Tensions between Pakistan and India and poor flying weather had initially delayed rescue attempts. But the search has now resumed.

A team of highly experienced Spanish and Pakistani mountaineers are re-tracing the route they took. The climbers hope to make it to Camp Three, at an altitude of almost 19,700ft.

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The route Mr Ballard, who lives in Derbyshire, and Mr Nardi were attempting on the world’s ninth highest peak – dubbed “Killer Mountain” – is known as the Mummery Spur.

The crowdfunding cash will keep a helicopter team searching, costing about 50,000 euros (£43,000) a day.

A crowdfunding page raised over Euro 137,000 (£118,107) with nearly 5000 people donating over three days.

Mr Ballard, 30, 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.

The search began on Thursday after delays due to airspace restrictions.

A three-person tent “invaded by snow” was spotted on the same day.

Two Pakistani mountaineers were with the missing pair but had decided to turn back because they thought it was too dangerous.

Karrar Haidri, secretary of the Alpine Club of Pakistan, said there is still hope as in some instances in the past, missing climbers were “miraculously rescued” after a long time.

Italian Ambassador Stefano Pontecorvo tweeted the team planned to search Camp Three area with the help of drones.

Nanga Parbat is regarded as one of the toughest of all the world’s highest peaks, and climbing it in winter presents an even greater challenge.

With temperatures as low as -40C, strong winds and the danger of avalanches, the risks are particularly high.

But both missing climbers are very accomplished mountaineers, and there is still some lingering hope they could be found alive.

Family friend Ian Sykes, a climber and founder of the Nevis Range snowsports centre near Fort William, said he was optimistic that the missing mountaineers would be found alive.

He said Mr Ballard’s family moved to the Highlands to help with his mother’s climbing training. The family, including Mr Ballard’s sister Kate and their father Jim, also skied and climbed in the area.

Mr Skyes said: “They are very much a mountaineering family. Tom learned to ski from an early age and has been a climber from the cot upwards.

“I guess he must have been in his early 20s when he left Fort William and some of the climbs he put up around here have never been repeated.”