‘Chances of survival are bleak’ locals warn, as search for NSW mountaineer continues

Footsteps heading into the path of an avalanche have been found in the search for a Sydney mountaineer, who is feared dead along with seven companions in India's Himalayas.

Ruth McCance is missing along with British team leader Martin Moran, three men from the UK, two people from the US and an Indian liaison officer.

Searchers are yet to find Australian mountaineer Ruth McCance or the other missing climbers.Credit:Facebook

Two Indian air force helicopters conducted reconnaissance missions around the Nanda Devi mountain in the Himalayas for the missing climbers without success on Sunday and survivors are unlikely to be found, two state government officials said.

The eight adventurers were part of a 12-member expedition attempting to summit a previously unclimbed route up Nanda Devi East.

The team trekked into the heart of the Nanda Devi sanctuary "with the ambition of summiting a virgin peak", adventure company Moran Mountain said in a Facebook post.

The trip was expected to take about 24 days.

The company on May 22 wrote that the team had reached its second base camp at almost 5000 metres and "after a recce of the route, they will be making a summit attempt on an unclimbed peak at 6477m".

The expedition's British deputy leader, Mark Thomas, remained at the second base camp with three others, but was in radio contact with the group of eight that pushed higher.

When Mr Thomas didn't hear anything after May 26 he went up to look for them and reportedly found a single unoccupied tent.

There was evidence of a large avalanche beyond that.

Vijay Kumar Jogdande, the top civil servant in the Pithoragarh district of India's rugged state of Uttarakhand, said that it is feared that avalanche had caught the climbers in the area around India's second-highest peak.

"Chances of survival are bleak," Jogdande said.

The twin peaks of Nanda Devi and Nanda Devi east.

A team of 10 to 15 rescuers, comprising police, disaster response personnel and administrators has also been sent out to track down survivors, said Tripti Bhatt, an official of the Uttarakhand State Disaster Response Force.

But the casualty rate in the region is almost five times higher than on Mount Everest, the world's tallest peak, and the rescuers would need at least three or four days of walking to get to the avalanche site, officials said.

"The route is extremely dangerous and risky. There have been multiple avalanches on the route," Jogdande said.

Indian Air Force helicopters made two reconnaissance missions on Sunday morning.

The first helicopter reconnaissance earlier in the day had spotted tents but no human presence.

The first was to take photographs of the area for mountaineers from the Indian Mountaineering Foundation to examine and give advice as to where the group could be.

A second helicopter picked up Thomas from the base camp and returned to the site where the group is believed to have gone missing from, IMF spokesman Amit Chowdhury said on Sunday.

"Today's search has not hinted any results, we have not been able to spot any people, or any gear or any clothing," he said.

"But they've been able to see footsteps going to a certain point and then beyond that is the track of the avalanche. So that's the news, it's not looking too good."

Chowdhury said IMF would remain hopeful until there is absolutely clear evidence.

"Since we have been unable to see anything beyond the footsteps ending where the avalanche came down it's not possible to make a definite, very certain conclusion that they were indeed in the avalanche, or they were not," he said.

It's hoped another aerial reconnaissance will be able to be undertaken on Monday, depending on the weather.

McCance's husband, Trent Goldsack, said the last time he heard from her was a text message a week ago, which said, "OK at base camp."

Websites linked to McCance reveal an avid adventurer and sailor.

The corporate coach, in a blog post from May 2016, revealed she gave up rock climbing at age 30 because she had "run out of mental and emotional reserves".

But at 47 she returned to the mountains in a bid to find "wild places that nourish my spirit for as long as my body will let me".

A rescue team of up to 20 people – including members of the Indian-Tibetan border police and the state disaster management force – left Munsiyari on Saturday morning local time, Chowdhury said.

But it will take them at least three days to reach the avalanche site.

AAP, Reuters

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