Rescuers call off efforts to reach climber in Pakistan

17th August 2009, Comments 0 comments

Worsening weather conditions and rough terrain of one of the most challenging mountains in the world have made it impossible for rescuers to try to locate Oscar Perez.

Madrid – Rescuers on Sunday called off their attempt to reach an injured Spanish climber stranded on a Himalayan mountain in Pakistan for over a week due to bad weather and little chance of finding him alive.

Oscar Perez, 33, broke his leg and a wrist in a fall on 6 August when he was some 6,300 metres (20,600 feet) up Latok II in the Himalayas in northern Pakistan and has not been heard from since.

His climbing partner Alvaro Novellon, who was also injured, left him with food, a sleeping bag and a gas stove to melt snow for drinking water and to keep warm before heading down the mountain to sound the alarm.

"He has spent 10 days with little equipment and food, it is almost impossible that he could survive," Lorenzo Ortas, the vice-president of Pena Guara, the Spanish climbing club which has been organising the rescue effort, told a news conference.

The worsening weather conditions and the rough terrain were also putting the lives of the rescue team at risk, the club said in a statement.

The rescue team, which included renowned American alpinist Fabrizio Zangrilli, had hoped to reach Perez on Monday and carry him down to an outcrop to be evacuated by a Pakistani military helicopter.

"We have lost this battle. We did all we could. There is nothing we can do. The weather changed and that complicated everything," a Spanish climber who was part of the rescue effort in Pakistan, Sebas Alvaro, told radio Cadena Ser.

Several Pakistani military helicopters sent out to locate Perez over the past few days were forced to return unsuccessfully due to bad weather and the difficult terrain.

The plight of the stranded climber has been on the front pages of Spanish newspapers over the past week and has dominated television newscasts.

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero on Thursday called his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani to request that the operation to rescue Perez be speeded up.

Latok II is part of Pakistan's Karakorum range, considered one of the most challenging in the world.

Spain's best known alpinist, Juan Oiarzabal, said there was a "slim chance" that Perez could still be saved if weather conditions improved, allowing for another rescue attempt to be launched, a view not shared by specialists.

"As a mountaineer I have to say that hope is the last to die. But it is a complicated situation. I don't know up to what point he can be auto-sufficient, make water, prepare food, in order to survive," the 53-year-old told cable news channel CNN+.

Two Spanish climbers died recently in the Himalayas. Luis Maria Barbero, 47, disappeared in July on the slopes of Gasherbrum II which rises to a height of 8,035 metres.

Veteran climber Inaki Ochoa de Olza, 40, died in May 2008 as a result of brain injury on the slopes of the 8,091-metres-high Annapurna.

AFP / Expatica

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