A University of York lecturer is among a group of climbers missing in the Himalayas.

Dr Richard Payne, a senior lecturer in environmental geography, is one of a party of eight people who have failed to return to base camp on the 7,816m-high Nanda Devi, India’s second highest mountain.

British-based mountain guide Martin Moran, who owns trekking company Moran Mountain, was leading the group.

Reports suggest that a rescue operation, which began on Saturday but was called off on Sunday due to bad weather, is set to resume on Monday.

A spokesperson for the University of York said:

  • We are aware of the news reports and can confirm that one of our lecturers Dr Richard Payne travelled to the Himalayas on holiday.

    We remain extremely concerned for his safety and our thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues at this difficult time.

Evidence of an avalanche

Nanda Devi mountain. Inset: Dr Richard Payne. Main photograph: deeltijdgod on Flickr
Dr Payne joined the university in 2015. The last tweet on his Twitter feed spoke of his excitement about the Himalayan expedition:

Amit Chowdhary, of the Indian Mountaineering Foundation, suggested the location of the missing climbers had been known up to May 26.

He said that reports from the four other team members, who had gone out to look for the missing climbers, suggested there was evidence of a very large avalanche.

Mark Charlton, president of the British Association of Mountain Guides (BMG), said in a post on the organisation’s Facebook page that Mr Moran had been leading six clients and an Indian national.

“The BMG is assisting where possible and is in contact with the Indian authorities,” he said.

“At the moment this is all the information we have as communication is very difficult.”

Foreign Office involved

A post on the Moran Mountain Facebook page said the company was working with authorities and the BMG to gather information about the expedition team.

An earlier post on May 13 showed the group beginning their trek “into the hills at Neem Kharoli Baba temple, Bhowali”.

According to an update on May 22, the group had reached their second base camp at 4870m and were due to make a summit attempt on an unclimbed peak at 6477m.

A spokeswoman for the Foreign Office said: “We are in contact with the Indian authorities following reports that a number of British nationals are missing in the Indian Himalayas. We will do all we can to assist any British people who need our help.”