PITHORAGARH: The bodies of five climbers, who died in avalanche while scaling the Nanda Devi East peak, will be brought back by the land route following IAF helicopters' repeated failure to retrieve them, said an official Thursday.
An eight-member team of mountaineers, including seven foreign nationals, on its way to Nanda Devi East peak in Pithoragarh district in Uttarakhand, was reported missing since May 25.
The bodies of five of them were spotted Monday from an Indian Air Force helicopter during a search and rescue operation.
The three other mountaineers are yet to be traced.
Pithoragarh District Magistrate Vijay Kumar Jogdande said the IAF choppers made two attempts even Thursday to retrieve the bodies but the operation failed due to inclement weather and the treacherous terrain.
Accordingly, it has been decided to try to retrieve the bodies through land routes for which a joint team of personnel from the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, the National Disaster Relief Force and the State Disaster Relief Force has been formed, he said.
But it may take three to four days for the rescue team to make the preparations and undergo the requisite training before launching the expedition, said Jogdande.
The district magistrate said retrieving the bodies may turn out to be a long process taking up to a month or more owing to difficult geographical terrain, he said.
The IAF helicopters had made three sorties on Wednesday as well to retrieve the bodies but their attempts proved futile due to high-speed winds and the difficult location where the bodies were spotted.
The team was led by well-known British climber Martin Moran.
It included three other climbers from the UK, two from the US and one from Australia, besides an officer from the Indian Mountaineering Foundation, New Delhi.
The missing climbers are Martin Moran, John McLaren, Richard Payne and Rupert Havel from the UK, Anthony Sudecam and Rachel Bimmel from the US, Ruth Macrain from Australia and IMF's Chetan Pandey.
The team had left Munsiyari near Pithoragarh on May 13 to scale the Nanda Devi East peak but did not return to the base camp on May 25 as scheduled.
The team had started from Munsiyari about 132 km from the district headquarters.