The first aerial search for the eight missing climbers spotted their tents, but no sign of human presence.

By Ian Horswill

Posted on June 3, 2019

Hopes to find eight climbers – two US nationals, one Australian, four Britons and an Indian guide – missing in the Indian Himalayas are “bleak”.

Group leader Martin Moran, Indian guide Chetan Pandey, and climbers John McLaren, Rupert Whewell, Richard Payne, Anthony Sudekum, Ronald Beimel and Ruth McCance were part of a 12-member expedition attempting to summit a previously unclimbed route up Nanda Devi East in the Indian Himalayas.

Ruth McCance from Sydney, Australia, had prepared well to summit Nanda Devi East in the Indian Himalayas. Photo: Facebook

Two Indian air force helicopters and a rescue team have been searching the region for the past two days after the climbers failed to return to their base camp, Sky News reported.

“The first aerial recce has concluded,” said Vijay Kumar Jogdanda, a civil administrator in Pithoragarh district in northern India’s Uttarakhand state.

“There were only tents spotted, but no human presence. The second helicopter has left for the recce.

“Chances of survival are bleak,” he added, confirming that there had been an avalanche in the area which the climbers may have been caught up in.

Martin Moran led the expedition to the summit of Nanda Devi East in the Indian Himalayas

The team trekked into the heart of the Nanda Devi sanctuary “with the ambition of summiting a virgin peak”, adventure company Moran Mountain said in a Facebook post.

On May 22, the company wrote that the team had reached its second base camp at almost 5,000 metres and “after a recce of the route, they will be making a summit attempt on an unclimbed peak at 6,477m”.

The expedition’s British deputy leader, Mark Thomas, remained at the second base camp with three others, but was in radio contact with the group of eight that pushed higher.

When Mr Thomas didn’t hear anything after May 26 he went up to look for them and reportedly found a single unoccupied tent. There was evidence of a large avalanche beyond that.

The 12-personnel who went to climb the “virgin peak” of Nanda Devi East. Photo: Moran Mountain / Facebook

McCance’s husband, Trent Goldsack, said the last time he heard from her was a text message a week ago, which said, “OK at base camp.”

“They basically went dark after they left Delhi, but that was expected. She’s done this stuff before,” Goldsack told the Sydney Morning Herald. Ever since he had known her, this was something his wife wanted to do, he said.

Goldsack said McCance, an executive coach from Sydney, went running in the Blue Mountains to boost her fitness and honed her mountain-climbing skills in France and New Zealand.

“She had prepared for this well,” Goldsack said. “She’d been preparing to do this for years. It’s not her first time in that area.

“For her, it wasn’t about ticking a box. She has a real passion for the mountains and being out in wild environments. And she likes to extend herself … that’s what was important to her.

“This was within her capabilities. She had no desire to climb [Mount Everest at] 8,000 metres.”

In a blog post on her professional website, McCance, believed to be in her late 40s, said she had stopped rock climbing at the age of 30, only to return to the hobby about three years ago.

“As much as I loved it and saw others climbing safely and well, I became overwhelmed by the risks involved, so I stopped. At 47 I have started climbing again – I’ve changed my mind.”