Pakistan calls off search for 3 climbers

Islamabad - Pakistan has called off a search for three climbers - from Austria, Switzerland and Pakistan - who went missing in the Karakoram mountain range about 10 days ago, an official said on Monday.

Team leader Gerfried Goschl, climber Cedric Hahlen and high altitude porter Nisar Hussain, part of an expedition to Gasherbrum-1, the highest peak in the mountain range on the Pakistan-China border, have been missing since March 9.

Search operations have been hampered by bad weather.

"Army helicopters made another attempt at the 8 048 metre peak on Thursday when weather improved, but they did not spot anyone," Colonel Manzoor Ahmed, President of the Pakistan Alpine Club, told AFP.

"It is also not possible to send a search expedition in this weather since it is winter," he added.

"Unfortunately there is no hope left now as they cannot stay there for such a long time so the search has been called off," he said.

The trio, who had two Thuraya sets, or satellite phones, were last spotted around 450 metres short of the summit on March 9.

Ahmed said the climbers may have been hit by an avalanche or strong winds.

Three Polish climbers who scaled the peak nearly two weeks ago and were stranded at a 5 100m base camp suffering badly from frost bite have been evacuated, Ahmed added.

The missing climbers had taken a new route from the south-western ridge, while the group from Poland had gone via the normal northern route.

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