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Search for missing climbers 'has not been called off'

Italian ambassador to Pakistan claims efforts to locate Tom Ballard and Daniele Nardi will continue.

Search: Tom Ballard and Daniele Nardi have been missing for more than a week.
Search: Tom Ballard and Daniele Nardi have been missing for more than a week.

A senior diplomat has said the search for two climbers missing on the world's ninth-highest mountain will continue on Thursday despite reports it had been called off.

Tom Ballard, who grew up in the Highlands, and Italian Daniele Nardi have been missing for more than a week on Nanga Parbat in Pakistan, known as "Killer Mountain".

They set out on February 22 and last made contact on February 24 while at about 6,300 metres (20,700ft).

Karrar Haidri, secretary of the Alpine Club of Pakistan, said rescue efforts had ended after another unsuccessful day on Wednesday.

He said it had been a "very painful decision" to take.

Stefano Pontecorvo, the Italian ambassador to Pakistan, who has kept abreast of the situation by liaising with Mr Nardi's family, told the Press Association they are not at the point of calling off the search yet.

He said: "The search is still on tomorrow. People who had second hand information then tweeted and it becomes truth. It's never been called off.

"I am no expert in this and I must trust the experts' advice. I think we've got among the best on the ground that there is now and also pretty technologically advanced equipment.

"Until they tell me that there is no scope to continue I'd say that together with the family I'd encourage them to go forward.

"If we come to a point in which everything possible has been done and nothing has been found, at that point it will be up to the families - although advised by us - to call it off. We're not there yet."

Mr Pontecorvo also gave an update about Wednesday's search, which marks ten days since the pair last made contact.

Another decision is likely to be made on Thursday.

He added: "Today they went to look at an alternative route, one of the reasons was they had gotten up high enough so they might have come back down - if they were facing some kind of danger or avalanche - through the Kinshofer route, which is an easier route and there are ropes already and camps and so on.

"Alex (Txikon, who is leading the search) decided to go and take a look at that route - he didn't find anything and so tomorrow there are still a few pieces of the Mummery which he has not further explored and that's what he's going to do.

"Then tomorrow, together with the family (of Daniele Nardi) and the other coordinator of research we will have a conference call and see what to do."

Two Pakistani mountaineers were with the pair initially but decided to turn back because they thought it was too dangerous.

Mr Ballard, 30, was born in Derbyshire but moved to the Scottish Highlands in 1995.

That same year his mother, Alison Hargreaves, died on K2 when she was 33 - months after becoming the first woman to conquer Everest unaided.

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