Missing Indian mountaineer found dead in South America

Hyderabad: Indian mountaineer Malli Mastan Babu, who was missing since March 24 while climbing the mountains between Chile and Argentina, has been found dead, officials said here today.

“Mountains retained its favourite child… R.I.P Malli Mastan Babu,” read an announcement on Facebook page ‘Rescue Malli Mastan Babu’ created by his friends and well-wishers.

The body of the 40-year-old mountaineer, who hailed from Nellore district of Andhra Pradesh, was found at a height of 6,000 feet in the Ceros mountains, External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj informed Urban Development minister M. Venkaiah Naidu.

Venkaiah Naidu, who also hails from Nellore, discussed with Sushma Swaraj the matter of bringing back the body to India.

She informed him that the central government would bring back the body to Chennai, the nearest airport to his village.

Naidu also spoke to the collector and other senior officials of Nellore to make arrangements to take the body to his village.

He also spoke to Mastan Babu’s sister Dorasanamma and informed her about the arrangements.

The mountaineer left home for the trip on December 16, 2014, and began the expedition from the Argentine side on March 24.

He was scheduled to return to the base camp the next day but was apparently trapped by bad weather.

All efforts by the family, friends and fellow mountaineers to contact him proved futile.

His elder brother Malli Pedda Mastanaiah told IANS that his friends were the first to break the shocking news.

“We learnt through his friends that he is no more,” said Mastanaiah, who is a school teacher in Khammam district of Telangana.

Mastanaiah, who was on his way to his home town, said they were waiting to hear from the government about when the body will be brought back.

The Indian government said on Friday that helicopter teams from Argentina and Chile were searching the Andes mountains for Mastan Babu.

On Saturday, external affairs ministry spokesperson Akbaruddin tweeted: “RIP #MalliMastanBabu. With his friends & family we are working with authorities in Argentina & Chile on next steps in a difficult situation.”

The post about his death has already got his admirers writing messages of tribute.

One post said: “Mastan embraced South America as his own in his last four years. He learned Spanish to be able to move in South American countries and he really enjoyed the Andes and its vast set of challenges. Mastan has been the amazing unofficial brand ambassador for the South American adventure destinations especially the Andes.”

The top mountaineer had achieved the feat of becoming the “fastest seven summiteer” in the world (172 days in 2006, during which he climbed seven summits on seven days of the week in each calendar month).

He was also the first Indian to summit Mt. Vinson Massif, the tallest peak in Antarctica and the first person from Andhra Pradesh to scale the Everest.

He was an alumnus of IIT-Kharagpur, IIM-Kolkata, NIT-Jamshedpur and Sainik School Korukonda.

Andhra Pradesh chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu expressed grief over his tragic demise.

“My tributes to mountaineer Mastan Babu. I stand by his family members in this hour of grief. He made us proud by following his passion,” the chief minister said in his condolence message.

State Urban Development minister P. Narayana, in his condolence message, recalled that despite coming from a poor family, Mastan Babu worked hard to come up in life.