Indian authorities have released a video showing the last moments of a group of mountain climbers — two Americans, four Britons, an Indian and an Australian — who perished after being swept away in an avalanche.
The group of eight was attempting to climb India’s second-highest peak, Nanda Devi, when contact was lost on May 26. All but one of the bodies were eventually discovered in June on the Himalayan mountains; the British man’s body was never found.
The brief video shows a mountainous landscape as the group appears to be taking a break. Then the video cuts to the group ascending a narrow ridge leading towards a snowy peak, roped together as they gingerly step upwards. Then, in a heart-dropping moment, the screen goes blank.
“Suddenly we noticed a loud noise. The video went blank and stopped,” said Vivek Kumar Pandey, spokesman for the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP).
“They were crossing a very dangerous ridge. The snow cornice must have given away because of their weight, triggering an avalanche,” he told AFP.
The footage was found on a camera buried in snow near the recovered bodies. It had been carried by the last person in the climbing line.
“It was mesmerizing for us to see the footage,” said A.P.S. Nambadia, the ITBP deputy inspector general who planned the operation to retrieve the bodies, at a press conference. “It will help us to analyze what went wrong with their mission.”
“The GoPro has proved to be like the black box of an aircraft giving an insight into the last few moments of the climbers,” added Nambadia, who said the search for the bodies at a 20,000-foot altitude was “extremely challenging.”
At the start of the climb, the group was 12 strong, but four of the members (all British) split off. Following the group’s last communication on May 26, it began to snow heavily in the area.
Approximately a week later, the bodies and climbing equipment were spotted by searchers in a military helicopter. Several attempts to airlift the bodies were aborted because of fierce winds and steep ground. Expert climbers dispatched by ITBP eventually brought the bodies down on foot, “with respect and dignity.”
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