Climbers’ bodies moved to airlift site
THE bodies of seven mountaineers who perished in an avalanche in the Indian Himalayas are being moved in body bags towards a spot where they can be picked up by helicopters.
An eight-member international mountaineering team, including Sydney woman Ruth McCance, 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 on the mountain more than a week ago. The bodies are yet to be identified but it's believed Ms McCance's is among those found.
Indian Air Force helicopters have not been able to land at the site where the bodies were found due to the difficult terrain and turbulence. District Magistrate of Pithoragarh, Dr Vijay Kumar Jogdande, said the air force requested search-and-rescue team leaders bring the bodies to a location where they could be easily lifted by helicopters.
The seven bodies are currently being moved in body bags by a team travelling on foot towards a suitable spot five kilometres above second base camp, Dr Jogdande said on Monday.
Once the bodies have been brought to the site, helicopters will be mobilised to try and reach them.
It is likely the ground team from the Indo-Tibetan Border Police Force, made up of 18 members and 10 high-altitude porters, will reach the site in the next day and a half, he said.
The seven bodies will be flown back to the Pithoragarh district headquarters and kept in a mortuary where they can be identified, he said. A search mission for the eighth body had to be stopped on June 27, Dr Jogdande said, because the weather is becoming inclement as the monsoon season likely to reach the region in the next day or two approaches.
On Monday in Sydney, Ms McCance's husband Trent Goldsack returned to the church where the couple wed in 2006 to mourn his wife.
"Ruth knew her limits, she was not climbing in Nanda Devi national park to tick boxes," Reverend Peter Kurti said at her memorial service at St James' Church in Sydney.
"It was not only the climb itself but the strenuous preparations that were part of the personal growth and self-understanding that Ruth was pursuing. Nothing was left to chance." More than 300 people packed into the church to farewell the avid climber, sailor and jazz singer.
In a eulogy delivered on behalf of Mr Goldsack, Ms McCance's stepdaughter, Roanna McClelland, spoke of a spiritual woman with boundless time for others. "You did not meet Ruth, you entered into a relationship with her," Ms McClelland said, reading the grieving husband's words.
"She believed everyone had, at their core, a beautiful essence that could not be destroyed.
"Her generosity is what allowed her to be the special person that we all knew." Mr Goldsack confessed he didn't fully understand his wife's pursuits in nature but was delighted each time she returned home.
"My marriage to her has not ended and I know, in some way, I will always be married to her," he stated in the eulogy.