Rescue mission

Military in desperate search for missing climbers on China’s side of K2

Having been missing for more than a day, hope is fading fast that the three will be found alive

By some incredible feat, according to reports, two Pakistan army helicopters reached 7,000 meters.

Searching the steep, windswept slopes of K2, in Pakistan’s Karakoram along the Chinese border, they found no trace of three missing expert climbers — Muhammad Ali Sadpara of Pakistan, Juan Pablo Mohr of Chile, and John Snorri of Iceland — and returned to base at Skardu.

From Left: Juan Pablo Mohr of Chile, John Snorri of Iceland and Muhammad Ali Sadpara of Pakistan.

According to a report in Gripped.com, the climbers — who were attempting a winter summit — had left Camp 3 at midnight and reached 8,150 meters at 10 am Friday morning. They were never to be heard from again, sparking a full-fledged rescue attempt.

Pakistani climbers Imtiaz Hussain and Akbar Ali are making their way up K2 as part of a boots on the ground search attempt, the report said.

The climbers have assisted in Himalayan rescue missions in the past, and will spend the night at Camp One, before searching the famed Abruzzi Spur route tomorrow.

Weather was reported as -46C, amid clear skies and low winds — a rare window of calm in the mighty Karakoram. Winds at the treacherous peak are known to reach speeds of 120 km/h, resulting in freakish wind-chill temperatures.

Having been missing for more than a day, hope is fading fast that the three climbers will be found alive.

The Alpine Adventure Guide said Sadpara’s son, Sjid Sadpara, is safely back to Camp 1, but was understandably distraught over his missing father.

According to Snorri’s Facebook account, Sajid turned back after his oxygen regulator stopped working. At that point, the group were above Camp 3, and had reached the famed “Bottleneck” at around 10 am, local time. According to Sajid, everyone was fine and they were maintaining a good pace, in their quest for the summit.

Meanwhile, Himalayan veteran Atanas Skatove died from a fall while descending from Camp 3. Skatov is reported to have likely fallen when transitioning from one rope to another, the report said.

Sergie Mingote of Spain died last month from a 600m fall Below Camp 1, witnessed by his fellow climbers.

Russian-American Alex Goldfarb also died on a nearby mountain during an acclimatizing mission in January.

On jan. 16, 10 Nepalese climbers led by Nirmal Purja reached the summit of K2 for the first winter ascent, the report said.

Snorri’s wife, Lina Moey Bjornsdottir, gave this update at around midnight K2 time, on Friday. 

“At this moment, we haven’t heard from the team since Sajid descended from the bottleneck, where the team was located … John and Ali are extremely strong climbers so we are hopeful that they will show up in Camp 3 soon,” she said.

According to Explorer’s Web, Sadpara’s spokesperson, Snorri’s wife and Alex Gavan, who just returned to Bucharest after aborting his own attempt on winter K2, have been hard at work to get the rescue operation in high gear.

Death and disaster are not new to K2.

On 1 August 2008, 11 climbers from international expeditions died on K2, the second-highest mountain on earth, at 8,611 metres (28,251 feet). The series of deaths, over the course of two days, was the worst single accident in the history of K2 mountaineering.

In an update shared on Saturday night, Special Assistant Zulfiqar Bukhari said Prime Minister Imran Khan and Chief of Army Staff Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa were “deeply concerned and personally following all developments regarding our missing mountaineers.

“High altitude porters and Lama helicopters will restart (the) search at the crack of dawn. Prayers (are) needed from everyone for their safe return,” he said on Twitter.

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