Rescue teams on Friday called off their search for three Spanish mountain climbers who went missing four days ago during the descent of the Gasherbrum-I peak in northern Pakistan.

Alfredo García, who had accompanied the other men during part of the ascent but turned back before reaching the summit, told Efe that after an initial attempt to locate Abel Alonso, Alvaro Paredes and Xevi Gémez the rescuers had given them up for dead.

The trio was last heard from on Monday, when they said via satellite telephone that they were together and had taken refuge fairly close to a camp.

The members of the expedition call for the "utmost respect for the family members, friends and colleagues" of the deceased, García said.

Rescue teams in helicopters saw no trace of the missing men during a search on Friday, a source close to the operation said.

"Two helicopters took off toward Gasherbrum-I at 11:30 a.m. and returned at 5:00 p.m. They didn't see anything," Said Anwar, the head of Lela Peak, the Pakistani agency that organized the ascent, told Efe.

"I don't see another search. The weather's not good and when a person has been missing at a height of more than 7,000 meters (22,950 feet) for five days, it's impossible to stay alive. It's a sad moment," Anwar added.

The team of 11 Spanish mountaineers, most of whom had experience scaling the world's tallest peaks, began their quest to climb the 8,068-meter (26,469-foot) Gasherbrum-I (Hidden Peak), the world's 11th-highest mountain, in late June.

Five of the climbers decided to undertake the ascent to the summit at the end of last week, while the rest remained at a base camp due to stomach ailments.

Early last Sunday, two of the climbers, García and David López, decided to turn back 100 meters (330 feet) from the summit due to fatigue and poor weather conditions.

López and García became separated on the descent, the former managing to reach a base camp and the latter also making his way to a camp after spending a night out in the open at an altitude of 7,500 meters (24,590 feet).

García later climbed the rest of the way down in the company of an Argentine mountaineer and joined the rescue effort. 

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