No Trace of Missing Burmese Climbers as Search Continues

By Htet Naing Zaw & Lawi Weng 12 September 2014

RANGOON — A rescue team is continuing its search for two Burmese climbers who have been missing for 12 days on what is considered to be Burma’s tallest mountain.

Local authorities say police officers, mountaineers and residents with knowledge of the roads have joined a rescue team but have thus far been unable to locate the climbers on Hkakabo Razi mountain in Kachin State.

“They are searching the surrounding areas with helicopters for the two people who went missing on the ice mountain,” Tun Ngwe, a district commissioner in Putao District, told The Irrawaddy on Friday.

The Htoo Foundation, run by Burmese tycoon Tay Za, has also pledged to aid the search but reported that snowy weather conditions on Thursday obstructed the view of aerial rescue teams.

Eight climbers set out on Hkakabo Razi on July 31, with a goal to reach the ice-capped peak in about two months. However, only two climbers—Aung Myint Myat and Wai Yan Min Thu—were able to continue to the top because the final stretch of the summit was too narrow.

The two men sent a message to the others when they reached the peak, becoming the first Burmese climbers to do so. Giving their GPS location, they said they had put a flag in the ground and sang a national song, according to Kyaw Naing, a member of the Thabawa Khawthan Association (Natural Call), which organized the expedition.

They were supposed to meet the others at base camp on Monday but lost contact on their way back down the mountain and did not turn up. “They knew that two people were missing when only six reached the point,” Kyaw Naing told The Irrawaddy.

He added that a rescue team from China with expert climbers would assist with the search. “The Chinese team arrived in Rangoon today. We will send them to Putao,” he said.

The Burma Army has also sent a helicopter over the mountain to drop food packages, according to Tun Ngwe.

Hkakabo Razi was long considered to be the tallest mountain not only in Burma, but in Southeast Asia. Recently, however, there has been some debate after satellite and digital data revealed that Gamlang Razi mountain, also in Kachin State, may be taller.