5 bodies spotted in Himalayas during helicopter search for missing climbers

Eight climbers are missing from one expedition.

June 3, 2019, 8:18 AM

NEW DELHI, India -- Helicopters searching for eight mountain climbers from the same expedition in the Indian Himalayas spotted five bodies Monday morning, an official confirmed to ABC News.

The missing climbers, which include two Americans, were part of a 12-person expedition on Nanda Devi, the second-tallest mountain in India, at 25,643 feet.

Authorities have been working on search efforts, although some have been thwarted by bad weather conditions, according to Pithoragarh district administrator Vijay Kumar Jogdande. A rescue team, including doctors is at the Nanda Devi base camp, could not go up the mountain on foot Sunday due to avalanches.

Helicopter rescue operations resumed Monday morning, leading to the discovery of five bodies. Rescue teams also spotted empty red tents at around 19,000 feet.

There had been avalanches in that region.

Authorities are doing a technical assessment to determine their next steps given the difficult terrain and high altitude.

Four of the group members -- Mark Thomas, Zachary Quain, Ian Wade and Kate Armstrong -- split off to climb its east peak, while the other eight went to climb an unnamed peak, according to Jogdande.

The four who headed toward the east peak were airlifted out from around 16,400 feet after getting stranded. They are now back in Pithoragarh, per Jogdande.

They had last been in contact with the other eight in the group on May 24. That group was supposed to return to base camp on two days later, but never did.

Authorities didn't learn about their absence until May 31, Jogdande said.

The eight missing climbers include two Americans -- Anthony Sudekum and Ronald Beimel -- as well as four people from the U.K., one from Australia and one from India -- Chetan Pandey of the Indian Mountaineering Foundation, according to Pithoragarh additional district magistrate R.D. Paliwal.

The other missing people are Martin Moran, John McLaren, Rupert Whewell and Richard payne from the U.K. and Ruth McCance from Australia.

It has been a particularly deadly climbing season in the Himalayas this year, with about two dozen deaths, although primarily on Mount Everest, where short weather windows paired with crowds and inexperience created catastrophes.

Eleven people died on the world's tallest mountain this season.

Other deaths in the mountain range this year occurred on the mountains Makalu, Lhotse, Annapurna, Cho Oyu and Kanchenjunga, officials previously told ABC News.

ABC News' Dragana Jovanovic contributed to this report.

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