ISLAMABAD (REUTERS) - Pakistan military helicopters circling the treacherous Killer Mountain were on Saturday (Jan 27) able to spot a French woman climber who left behind her injured Polish partner to seek help, a senior official said, but neither was able to be rescued.
Helicopters buzzing over the 8,126 metre Nanga Parbat mountain spotted Elisabeth Revol of France at about 6,700m mark but were unable to communicate with Tomasz Mackiewicz from Poland, who is believed to be in a crevasse.
Four members from a team of Polish climbers attempting the first winter ascent of nearby K2, the world's second-highest mountain, are assisting in the rescue operation after a Pakistan Army helicopter picked them up from their base camp and flew them to Nanga Parbat on Saturday.
Brig. Shahid Sardar, a representative of military-owned Askari Aviation, told Reuters that Revol was spotted near Nanga Parbat's Base Camp 2, while the Polish rescue team are currently in Base Camp 1. The rescuers also know Mackiewicz's location.
"We are hoping they will reach the French lady by tomorrow, but there is no contact with the Polish climber. It is a very complex rescue operation," Sardar said.
"We should know by mid-day tomorrow." Revol knows Mackiewicz's location high up on Nanga Parbat, where in the winter perceived temperatures can reach minus 60 degrees Celsius.
Mackiewicz and Revol were forced to turn back at about 7,400m on Pakistan's second highest mountain, with Mackiewicz suffering from frostbite and snow blindness, according to Pakistani Alpine Club officials.
On Friday, Revol managed to bring Mackiewicz down to 7,280 metres and set him up in a tent to spend the night. She then began her descent down to help the rescue and used a satellite phone to call for assistance. Pakistan's military said two Pakistan Army helicopters carrying four rescuers were undertaking the mission.
"The request was made to Pakistan army to save the lives of these mountaineers by concerned Embassies," the military said in a statement.
Pakistan rivals Nepal for the number of peaks over 7,000 meters and is considered climbers' paradise, but fatalities are also common.
Nanga Parbat obtained its Killer Mountain moniker due to the high number of lives it has claimed over the years. In June a Spanish man and an Argentinian perished in an avalanche while trying to scale its peak.
The first successful winter ascent of the mountain was made as recently as February 2016. Mackiewicz has made six previous attempts to scale Nanga Parbat in winter.
On Friday, a crowdfunding campaign exceeding its target of 60,000 euros (S$97,508) within several hours. The Polish government said it would provide financial guarantees and support for the rescue operation.