Dehradun:Following the failure of multiple attempts by the Indian Air Force (IAF) choppers to land on a mountain slope near Nanda Devi East to retrieve the bodies of climbers belonging to a mountaineering expedition killed in an avalanche, a joint "ground mission" would be launched for the purpose, a top state government official said on Thursday.
Pithoragarh District Magistrate V.K. Jogdande said IAF helicopters made two attempts on Thursday morning to retrieve the bodies but bad weather and tough topography hampered the operations.
Following these failed attempts by the IAF choppers, a joint team of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) and Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) has been formed to launch a land operation to retrieve the five bodies. "We are hopeful of retrieving these bodies through the trekking route," he said.
Before launching the mission, three to four days time would be given to the team for pre-expedition training and preparation, Jogdande said.
On Wednesday, three sorties were undertaken from Pithoragarh to retrieve the bodies but the helicopters could not land on the spot where the five bodies have been found, he said. Considering the tough terrain, the operation of retrieving the bodies might take the expedition team 15-20 days to reach the avalanche site and an equal length of time for returning, he said. "So it will be a prolonged exercise," he noted. On Monday, IAF helicopters had spotted the bodies of five of the eight mountaineers who went missing recently on way to the Nanda Devi East peak in Uttarakhand. The bodies had been sighted at an unnamed peak adjoining Nanda Devi East.
The deceased mountaineers belonged to the eight-member team consisting of climbers from the UK, US and Austria that went missing en route to the Nanda Devi East peak, Munsiyari Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) Ramesh Guatam said. The climbers had left Munsiyari on May 13 to scale the peak but did not return to the base camp on the appointed date of May 25. The route to the peak begins from Munsiyari located about 132 km from the Pithoragarh district headquarters. Gautam said only five bodies were seen by the IAF choppers, while the whereabouts of other three mountaineers are not yet known. There is one Indian from the Indian Mountaineering Federation (IMF) in the climbers' team, Gautam said. –IANS