The news about eight missing climbers in the Indian Himalayas took a grim turn Monday when Indian pilots spotted five bodies amid evidence of an avalanche. High winds and snow kept rescuers from getting to the spot to search for the other three, but one official said the odds of anyone being found alive is "almost zero." Two Americans, four Brits, an Indian, and an Australian who'd returned to climbing after a 17-year hiatus were on the expedition. The Americans have been identified as Anthony Sudekum, 63, of Missouri, and Ronald Beimel, 34, of Los Angeles. Details and developments:
- Missouri surgeon: Sudekum is a hand surgeon based in O'Fallon, Mo., reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Sudekum is an avid climber, and his practice posted online on May 10 that he'd arrived in India to climb Nanda Devi East mountain. No details were immediately available about Beimel.
- No permission? The climbers were indeed in the region of Nanda Devi East, one of India's highest peaks, but the group's Facebook post says they were attempting to climb a slightly smaller, unnamed peak when they went missing. Indian authorities said the group didn't have permission to do so, reports CNN. Had authorities known they were going up the unnamed peak instead of Nanda Devi, they "would not have given permission," says Pithoragarh District Magistrate Vijay Kumar Jogdande.
- Australian woman: Among the missing is Ruth McCance, an experienced climber from Sydney. Her husband tells the Sydney Morning Herald that she was well-prepared and that, "for her, it wasn't about ticking a box. She has a real passion for the mountains and being out in wild environments."
- In her words: McCance herself wrote in 2016 that she had stopped climbing at age 30 before resuming nearly two decades later. "As much as I loved it and saw others climbing safely and well, I became overwhelmed by the risks involved, so I stopped," she wrote. "At 47 I have started climbing again—I've changed my mind." Her husband tells the Guardian the change of heart came because she realized how important climbing—and the testing of her own limits—was to her very being.
- 2nd group: The climbing group, led by the Moran Mountain adventure company, originally had 12 members. (Leader Martin Moran of Britain is among the missing.) They reached their second base camp on May 22 and began to push for the summit. However, deputy leader Mark Thomas and three others turned back because of harsh weather and returned to the camp on May 25. Those four have been rescued, reports the BBC. An avalanche is believed to have occurred after the smaller group returned to camp.
- The bodies: Helicopter pilots spotted five bodies on the general path the expedition had been on. "Four bodies can be seen together and a fifth slightly away from the others," Indian official Jogdande tells Reuters. "We are trying to retrieve the bodies. We believe the other three will be nearby."
(Meanwhile, the son of legendary climber Sir Edmund Hillary says his father would be appalled at the congested conditions on Everest