Missing mountain guide Martin Moran's family 'deeply saddened' as climbers disappear in Himalayas following avalanche

Martin Moran is missing along with seven others on Nanda Devi. Credit: Moran Mountain Facebook

The family of a British mountain guide, who is missing along with the seven climbers he was leading in the Himalayas, have said they are "deeply saddened" after an avalanche on the mountain range.

Martin Moran, who is originally from Tyneside, was leading the party in their attempts to reach the top of an unclimbed summit in a remote area.

While his family said it was "not entirely clear" what had happened to the group - which included another three British climbers - they said there was "clear evidence that a sizeable avalanche had occurred" on 7,816-metre Nanda Devi, India's second highest mountain.

Mr Moran has been a mountain guide since 1985 and set up his company Moran Mountain, which is based in Strathcarron in the Highlands, together with his wife Joy - with the couple's grown up children Hazel and Alex both also working with the family business.

Searches have been taking place in a bid to find the missing climbers after the alarm was raised on Friday morning.

In a statement Mr Moran's family said they are "deeply saddened by the tragic events unfolding in the Nanda Devi region of the Indian Himalaya."

"As a family, we share the same emotions that all next of kin are experiencing in not knowing the whereabouts or wellbeing of those closest to us."

They continued: "There was clear evidence that a sizeable avalanche had occurred on the mountain and it seemed to be on or very near the route that would be taken by the climbing group."

The Nanda team began their journey into the hills at Neem Kharoli Baba temple, Bhowali. Credit: Moran Mountain Facebook

Mr Moran's family added: "We are grateful to the Indian Mountaineering Foundation who are coordinating search and rescue efforts on the ground and in the air under extremely difficult conditions in a very remote area of the Himalaya."

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

Vijay Kumar Jogdande, a civil administrator in northern India's Uttarakhand state, said rescuers would be advised by four other team members who stayed back at the second base camp and were brought down on Sunday.

He said the alert was raised when the climbers did not return to the base camp on Friday May 31.

Climber Nigel Vardy, who has known Mr Moran for 20 years, described him as "an absolute professional and genuinely a really, really nice guy".

Reports suggest a rescue operation is set to resume on Monday. Credit: Moran Mountain Facebook

During his 30-year mountaineering career, Mr Vardy once suffered frostbite on a climb in Alaska and Mr Moran helped him rebuild his confidence.

He said: "Martin is a fantastic guy but if the weather and the conditions are not with you, then no matter how skilled you are the mountain is going to have its way."

Mr Vardy stated Mr Moran "knows the area, he knows the mountains and knows what he is doing".

Mr Vardy said he is hoping for everyone's safe return but concerns over safety deepen the longer that anyone is missing.

The eight climbers were attempting to scale Nanda Devi in the Himalayas but failed to return to base camp on Sunday. Credit: ITV News

The University of York confirmed on Sunday that one of its lecturers, Dr Richard Payne, travelled to the Himalayas.

A spokesperson 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."

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

Mark Charlton, president of the British Association of Mountain Guides (BMG), said in a social media post 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.

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."