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By Saad Sayeed
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Helicopter pilots on Tuesday plucked a stranded Russian mountaineer from a northern peak in Pakistan's first such rescue at a height of more than 6,000 metres (20,000 ft), ending his six-day ordeal, the military said.
The rescue of Alexander Gukov from Latok I, a mountain in the Karakoram range that is 7,145 m (23,442 ft) high, following the death of his climbing partner, came after seven unsuccessful attempts, the military said in a statement.
The partner, Sergey Glazunov, fell to his death as the pair were descending the mountain on Wednesday, said Karrar Haidri, the secretary of Pakistan's Alpine Club.
"Gukov sent out an SOS and was forced to wait in the hope of rescue, clinging to the wall without equipment to descend," Haidri said.
"He managed to build a snow cocoon to shield himself from the elements and was able to stay in contact with rescuers via a satellite phone."
The Russian has been airlifted to the nearest hospital in the town of Skardu, and is said to be in good health, despite having gone three days without food while trapped at a height of 6,294 m (20,650 ft).
"Though he is very weak, he has no frostbite," Haidri added.
The military said snow clouds had forced it to call off the previous rescue bids. The pair began climbing on July 12, but eventually abandoned the effort and started their descent two weeks later in the mountain range bordering India and China.
Pakistan is considered a climbers' paradise, rivalling neighbouring Nepal in the number of its peaks exceeding 7,000 m (23,000 ft), but fatalities are common among the enthusiasts who flock there in summer.
This month, Pakistani military helicopters also rescued two British mountaineers from Ultar Sar, another peak in the same range, after an avalanche killed their Austrian climbing partner.
Pakistan's tallest peaks include K2, the world's second highest peak, at 8,611 m (28,251 ft), and Nanga Parbat, known as "Killer Mountain", for the numerous deaths on its treacherous slopes.
In January, a team of Polish climbers rescued French mountaineer Elisabeth Revol from the peak, but were unable to save her climbing companion, Tomasz Mackiewicz.
(Writing by Saad Sayeed; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)