Bodies of five trekkers, who had gone missing since May 24, were spotted at an altitude of over 5,000 metres near an unnamed peak in Uttarakhand’s Pithoragarh district, on Monday.
Three of the total eight trekkers who went missing, are yet to be traced, but the administration suspects that they too are dead and are buried under an avalanche.
A group of 12 trekkers, who had permission from the Indian government and the forest department to trek to Nanda Devi East at 7,400m, had started trekking from Munsiyari in Pithoragarh district on May 16. On May 22 the trekkers reached the Nanda Devi base camp. From there four of them took to the trek route for Nanda Devi East, and the remaining eight started trekking for an unnamed peak at 6,477m, Pithoragarh District Magistrate VK Jogdande said, adding that the required permission for the unnamed peak was not taken by the trekkers.
On May 24 the two teams could not connect with each other. The team of four returned to the summit base camp at 5,800m after it failed to reach the summit. However, there was no trace of eight other trekkers.
On May 31 the team stranded at the summit base camp was able to contact the Delhi-based private agency through which the trek had been planned.
Jogdande said, “On May 31 I received an email from the agency about the stranded and missing trekkers. We sent two teams on foot to search for the trekkers.” One team comprised 10 Indo-Tibetan Border Police personnel. The other was a 14-member team of four doctors, six SDRF personnel and four policemen.
Also, on June 1, a state government helicopter was sent on a search and rescue mission, but was unable to conduct any search due to bad weather, Jogdande said.
“We then requested the Indian Air Force (IAF) for two helicopters that started the search and rescue mission on June 2,” he said, adding that one of the IAF helicopters found four trekkers stranded at the summit base camp at 5,800m, and the other IAF helicopter rescued them and brought them back to Pithoragarh, but the remaining eight trekkers were not found on June 2. After information from the rescued trekkers, on Monday one of the IAF helicopters was sent to search for the eight missing trekkers.
“We took photographs from the area where they were suspected to have gone missing and while analysing the photographs we spotted a lower limb, and 500m above we spotted bodies of four trekkers tied together lying on an avalanche,” the district magistrate said.
While five bodies were traced on Monday, the administration suspects that the remaining three bodies might be buried under the avalanche. “We shall now retrieve the bodies,” Jogdande said.
Of the eight trekkers, four were from the UK, two were from the US, one trekker was an Indian, and the group had one female trekker who was from Australia.