NEW DELHI — After visiting a temple at Bhowali in Uttarakhand on May 13, veteran guide Martin Moran led a team of 12 up the Nanda Devi mountain in the Indian Himalayas. The group needed the blessings — they were planning to conquer an unclimbed peak at 21,250 feet. Legend has it that Steve Jobs founded Apple soon after seeking guidance from the temple mystic.
Nine days later — on May 22 — the group was on its way to making history. At 15,977 feet, they posted, “A first ascent is a creation in the same sense as is a painting or a song.”
Instead, eight members of the group, including two Americans, went missing after a reported avalanche hit parts of the mountain days later. Four others who had returned to a base camp because of inclement weather were airlifted to safety Sunday.
On Monday, an aerial search and rescue team photographed “four or five dead bodies,” said Vijay Kumar Jogdande, the top local government official. He added that there was “no chance” the remaining climbers would be found alive.
Of the eight missing mountaineers, two were Americans, four were British, one was Indian and one was Australian.
A sortie led by the Indian air force over the avalanche-hit areas managed to photograph the bodies. The five-member team in the air was assisted by 24 people on the ground.
The four climbers who were airlifted to safety Sunday from a base camp were identified by local media as Mark Thomas, Ian Wade, Kate Armstrong and Zachary Quain — all Britons.
The first alarm was raised May 31, when the eight climbers did not return to the base camp as planned.
The missing Americans were identified as Anthony Sudekum, 63, from Missouri, and Ronald Beimel, 34, of Los Angeles, the New York Post reported.
Leading the group was Moran, a British guide, who ran the Moran Mountain company, which has led expeditions in the Himalayas since 1992.
The Moran family said in a statement that they “share the same emotions” as other next of kin in “not knowing the whereabouts or wellbeing of those closest to us.”
Jogdande said the decision to retrieve the bodies would be made by higher authorities of either the Defense or Foreign ministries.
Eleven mountaineers died recently in neighboring Nepal while climbing the world’s tallest mountain, Mount Everest, following congestion on the ascent.