Australian woman Ruth McCance has been officially identified by Indian authorities as one of the eight climbers who were killed in an avalanche near the country’s second highest mountain in May.
The bodies of seven of the climbers — an eighth is still yet to be found — have been airlifted to the biggest town in the area for identification and repatriation, officials said.
Two of the dead have since been formally identified, including McCance.
“Today we brought down seven dead bodies from base camp to Pithoragarh district,” Vijay Kumar Jogdande, an Indian district official, said.
“We have identified dead bodies of Australian woman Ruth McCance and [an] Indian liaison officer.
“We identified Ruth’s body with the help of photographs and documents and a copy of her passport. She is [the] only female in the group so that helped in identification.”
Mr Jogdande said post-mortem examinations had been completed on the bodies, and the Australian embassy had been notified of her identification.
“Now embassies or their representatives or any family members can approach the Haldwani medical college. There they can identify the person and take custody of the dead body,” he said.
Eight climbers — four from Britain, two from the United States, and one each from Australia and India — went missing on May 31 after they failed to return to their base camp near the 7,816-metre mountain, Nanda Devi.
“The mission was extremely difficult considering the weather, avalanches and the elevation of the site where the bodies were,” Mr Jogdande said.
The search for the body of the eighth climber has been suspended due to harsh weather.
Mr Jogdande said the small window of 20-25 days before monsoon conditions reached the higher Himilayas made the retrieval “risky”.
Nanda Devi and its sister mountain, Nanda Devi East, are among the world’s most challenging peaks and only a handful of people have climbed them.
This climbing season in the Himalayas has been one of the deadliest for several years.
More than 20 people have been killed including at least 11 on Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak, in Nepal, due to bad weather conditions, inexperienced climbers and overcrowding.
—The body of Australian mountaineer Ruth McCance has been airlifted off a remote mountain in India’s Himalayas.
Ms McCance was part of an eight-member international mountaineering team who went missing during an expedition on Nanda Devi East after they were hit by an avalanche in late May.
Paramilitary soldiers located the bodies of seven of the eight climbers at an altitude of more than 5000 metres more than a week ago.
Seven bodies were retrieved during aerial missions on Wednesday – including the body of a woman believed to be Ms McCance.
The bodies were moved in bags by a team travelling on foot to a site where they could be more easily be reached by helicopters.
The retrieval of Ms McCance’s body comes just days after her husband Trent Goldsack returned to the Sydney church where the couple were wed in 2006 to mourn his late wife.
More than 300 people packed into the memorial service at St James’ Church in the city to farewell the avid climber, sailor and jazz singer.
Bodies rescued from the mountain have been brought back to the Pithoragarh district headquarters about 100 kilometres away from the retrieval site.
The bodies will be taken to a hospital in the city of Haldwani.
Only one other body has been identified so far, that of an Indian liaison officer, but the other five cannot yet be identified because they don’t have documentation, according to Pithoragarh district magistrate Vijay Kumar Jogdande.
The search for the missing body of the eighth member of the team had to be stopped last week due to bad weather as monsoon season approached.
Authorities will revisit the subject of retrieving the body in three or four months when monsoon season passes.