Alpinist rescued from 'Killer Mountain' by Pakistani military helicopter

An army helicopter on Wednesday brought Slovene climber Tomaz Humar to safety from an icy ledge in the Himalayas where he'd been trapped for six days at around 6,000 meters after attempting to ascend Pakistan's "Killer Mountain".

Humar, 36, was winched to safety from the notorious Nanga Parbat mountain, the world's ninth highest peak, after two earlier helicopter rescue attempts failed because of the high altitude and poor weather.

Humar, who remained in radio contact with his base camp during his ordeal, returned there around 6:30 a.m., suffering thirst, hunger and first signs of frost bite, but no serious health problems, according to a posting on his expedition Web site.

"He fell on his knees since he could barely walk from exhaustion," the site reported. "They laid him on the sleeping bag, he cried, hugged everyone around him and kept thanking the (helicopter) crew."

Pakistan's military hailed the rescue as a "highly daring and extraordinary mission" conducted above the normal ceiling for flying -- and rivaling its 1983 rescue of Belgian mountaineer in the Himalayas from 22,000 feet (6,670 meters).

Two Lama helicopters had "optional equipment" stripped off to reduce their weight and help them conduct the risky maneuver in the thin mountain air, the army said in a statement. Neither aircraft was able to land near where Humar was sheltering, so one chopper dropped a sling to him and carried him away, dangling from a rope.

The army said Humar had been stranded at 21,520 feet (6,520 meters), but his Web site said the Slovene had descended a few hundred meters before the rescue and had been huddled on a steep slope at around 5,900 meters (19,470 feet).

Humar, a Customs officer who lives in Stranje, Slovenia, is a veteran of 1,500 ascents around the world. He was climbing Nanga Parbat - which in Urdu language means "Naked Mountain" - via its unconquered Rupul Face.

The 8,125-meter (26,812-foot) peak is more widely known as "Killer Mountain" because of the many climbers who have perished there. In all, 31 people died attempting to reach the summit before it was finally conquered by German mountaineer Herman Buhl in 1953.

Humar made his first attempt two years ago. Two colleagues accompanying him on this year's ascent had turned back last Tuesday as bad weather closed in, but Humar pressed on. He called for help on Friday.

He dug in, "trapped on a small shelf in the wall for six days with nothing more than a rope and an ice screw" to anchor him, battling exhaustion and subzero temperatures, the Web site said.

Humar was also periodically buried by avalanches and had to burrow his way out of the snow. He massaged his toes with cream after they turned blue two days in a row, and in the last few days, his food supplies ran out.

His expedition team on Saturday had issued an international appeal for a helicopter rescue, and the Slovenian Embassy asked the Pakistan army for help, the AP reports.

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