Seven mountaineers have been caught by an avalanche while climbing at an altitude of more than 5,000m (17,000ft) in northern Pakistan, officials say.The four Italian and three Pakistani climbers are believed to be trapped in the Ghizer district near the border with Afghanistan.The avalanche occurred in the early hours of Monday, local media report.

A rescue operation by the Pakistani army is being held until Tuesday due to the region’s poor weather conditions.Helicopters will be used in an attempt to locate and evacuate the mountaineers from the remote location, with volunteers also helping with rescue efforts, a spokesman for the Alpine Club of Pakistan told the Associated Press.”We are praying for the safety of the stranded mountaineers,” he said.

Northern Pakistan is popular among climbers because of the region’s dramatic peaks, and fatalities are not uncommon.In March, the bodies of Italian Daniele Nardi and Briton Tom Ballard were recovered from a mountain in Pakistan two weeks after they disappeared at an altitude of about 6,300m.The pair were attempting to reach the summit of Nanga Parbat – the world’s ninth highest mountain.