WORLD / Asia-Pacific

Female Australian climber is still alive - Friend
Updated: 2006-05-30 10:06

A friend of an Australian woman reported killed while climbing in the Himalayas said Tuesday he had not given up hope for her survival and was making preliminary plans for her rescue.

The Department of Mountaineering in Katmandu said Monday that 43-year-old Suzanne Fear of Sydney fell into a crevasse and died at the weekend while descending Mount Manaslu, the world's eighth highest peak at 8,163 meters (26,775 feet).

Tim Macartney-Snape said he was hopeful that his friend Fear, the first Australian woman to summit Mount Everest from the more difficult north face would be found alive.

"There are lots of people who have survived falls into crevasses and been stuck down there for long periods of time and survived," Macartney-Snape said.

He said Fear's death had yet to be confirmed and noted that her climbing partner, Bishnu Gurung, had managed to climb out of the crevasse, where they fell Sunday, to raise the alarm.

Macartney-Snape said Gurung may have been mistaken in reporting her dead.

"At that altitude, you must understand that perceptions are blurred and, especially at the end of the day when you are tired and you have fallen in a crevasse and had to climb put of it," Macartney-Snape told Nine Network television Tuesday.

"Until we get more information from her climbing partner, there is still hope," he added.

Macartney-Snape was coordinating the search for Fear from his home in Sydney with her brothers Grahame and John, The Daily Telegraph reported Tuesday.

A helicopter and rescue team were on standby at Mount Manaslu. The helicopter can only fly about 6,200 meters (20,300 feet) up the mountain, after which rescuers will have to climb for about eight hours to reach the spot where Fear is thought to be, the paper said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said in a statement Tuesday it was aware of the report of Fear's death but that Australia's consulate in Katmandu was still investigating.

Sue Badyari of travel company World Expeditions which employed Fear as a guide and consultant, said the company had not yet spoken to Gurung on the matter.

Fear's friends and family have been inspired by the remarkable survival of Australian climber Lincoln Hall, a friend of Fear, who was left for dead near the summit of Mount Everest last Thursday but was rescued a day later.

Hall, 50, from the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, is expected to arrive in Katmandu late Tuesday from the Mount Everest base camp where he has been recovering. Hall would than attempt to sell his story of survival on the world's tallest mountain, New Zealand climber Jamie McGuinness said.