Paramilitary soldiers have discovered the bodies of seven missing climbers believed to have been killed in an avalanche on a notoriously dangerous Himalayan mountain.
Eight climbers, including Australian Ruth McCance, were reported missing in late May after they failed to return to their base camp near Nanda Devi, India’s second-highest mountain.
The discovered remains included that of one woman, Indian police have said. Ms McCance was the only woman in the group.
The bodies will now be brought from where they were found at an altitude of more than 5000 metres to the base camp.
The climbers, which also included four Britons, two Americans and an Indian, were reported missing while attempting to summit a previously unclimbed route up Nanda Devi East.
Five of their bodies were spotted by an Indian rescue mission earlier this month, but attempts to retrieve them were postponed after a helicopter failed multiple times to drop rescuers on the peak.
Officials at the time said they were all presumed dead.
VK Jogdande, the senior official in Pithoragarh, where the mountain is located, said the search for the missing eighth mountaineer will continue.
For now, a team of 25 climbers belonging to the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) “have set up camp there and they have kept the bodies there”, Mr Jogdande told the BBC.
“They hope to recover the eighth body by tomorrow,” he said.
The rescuers are expected to take at least three days to return the bodies to the base camp, Mr Jogdande added.
HS Chauhan, president of the Indian Mountaineering Foundation, said authorities would decide on an air evacuation of the bodies depending on weather conditions.
An administrator of Uttarakhand state, Vijay Jogdande, says the soldiers reached the bodies on Sunday but they had yet to be identified.
The missing climbers were last heard from on May 25 when British team leader Martin Moran sent a message saying they were preparing to ascend an unclimbed summit known as Peak 6447m.
When British deputy leader, Mark Thomas, who remained at base camp with three climbers, didn’t hear again from the team, he went on to Peak 6447m to search.
He found a very large avalanche had hit the route Mr Moran’s team were expected to have taken. The climbers were nowhere to be seen.
The missing Britons were named as Mr Moran, John McLaren, Rupert Whewell and Richard Payne.
US nationals Anthony Sudekum and Ronald Beimel and Indian guide Chetan Pandey were also missing.