ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – A high-altitude rescue helicopter safely plucked two stranded Italian climbers from one of the world's highest mountains on Thursday, officials said.
Mountaineers Walter Nones and Simon Kehrer were in good condition after being stranded some 21,600 feet up on Nanga Parbat Mountain, said Rashid Ahmad, a representative of a local tour company that supported the Italians' expedition. The men were being transported to the region's main town of Gilgit.
"As far as my information is concerned, they are in a good condition and they don't need any immediate medical care," Ahmad told The Associated Press.
Nones and Kehrer had been struggling to descend from the 26,810-foot mountain since July 16, when fellow climber Karl Unterkircher fell to his death in a crevasse.
Organizers of the Himalayan climb in Italy said that two helicopters reached the climbers at 18,700 feet; thin air makes it risky for helicopters to fly above 19,685 feet.
Nones and Kehrer used skis "to accelerate" the descent to reach the helicopter, Steffanoni said.
One of the choppers ferried Kehrer to a base camp before returning for Nones, who reached safety 20 minutes later, Francesca Steffanoni said.
Organizers monitoring the progress waited for confirmation that the rescue had succeeded.
"We exploded in shouts of joy," Sara Sottocornola said.
The mountaineers may stay for a day or two in Gilgit before leaving for Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, Ahmad said.
Nanga Parbat is the world's ninth-highest peak, and in the Urdu-language it means "Naked Mountain." It is also known as "Killer Mountain" because many climbers have died while trying scale it.
Northern Pakistan's spectacular mountains, including the world's second-highest, K-2, are popular with international climbers.
In August 2005, a Pakistani army helicopter rescued a Slovene mountaineer, Tomaz Humar, after he was stranded for a week on Nanga Parbat from a height of 22,000 feet. The army described it as one of the highest rescue missions ever. Slovenia presented the two army pilots with the country's highest award for bravery.