Indian soldiers have reached the bodies of seven climbers who died on a Himalayan mountain – and one of them is thought to be York academic Richard Payne.

Administrator of Uttarakhand state, Vijay Jogdande, said the soldiers reached the bodies on Sunday, but they had yet to be identified.

The bodies will now be brought from where they were found at an altitude of more than 5,000 metres to the base camp.

Veteran British mountaineer Martin Moran led a team of four Britons, two Americans, an Australian and an Indian on an expedition on Nanda Devi East.

Mr Moran’s Scotland-based company said contact with the team was lost on May 26 following an avalanche.

Five bodies believed to be from the missing team were spotted from the air nearly two weeks ago.

Ground expeditions

The team who were due to climb Nanda Devi. Dr Payne is second left. Photograph: Moran Mountain on Facebook
Ground expeditions by the Indian paramilitary forces and the Indian Mountaineering Foundation were launched after helicopter missions failed to reach the area.

The search for a missing eighth mountaineer will continue, Mr Jogdande said.

HS Chauhan, president of the Indian Mountaineering Foundation, said authorities would decide on an air evacuation of the bodies depending on weather conditions.

Dr Payne, a senior lecturer in environmental geography, was an experienced climber.

A university spokesman said: “Our thoughts remain with Richard’s family, friends and colleagues at this difficult time.”