Saturday Feb 06, 2021
SKARDU: Pakistan Army helicopters have returned to Skardu unsuccessful after conducting a search operation to trace missing mountaineer Ali Sadpara and two other team members who are on an expedition to conquer K2 during the winter.
The helicopters reportedly flew to a height of 7,000 metres on Saturday afternoon in their attempt to locate the missing mountaineers — Sadpara, John Snorri from Iceland and Juan Pablo Mohr from Chile — but were unable to find any clues to their whereabouts. They had to return due to worsening weather and light conditions.
It had been reported a day earlier that Sadpara and his team had successfully summited the 8,611-metre K2 — the world's second highest mountain — late Friday, a month after their first attempt failed. However, their support teams have since then cautioned that the climbers' status is still unclear and there has been no communication from their end.
Waqas Johar, Assistant Commissioner Shigar, Gilgit-Baltistan, confirmed Saturday afternoon that there has been no success in finding the missing mountaineers so far and that weather conditions are "not good" at K2.
He said that Ali's son, Sajid Sadpara, who had been waiting at Camp 2 has now begun to descend.
In a subsequent update, he said that Sajid has reached Camp 1.
Sadpara, Snorri and Mohr had departed for their journey a day after Sadpara's birthday in the wee hours of Wednesday, asking fans and admirers to "keep us in your prayers".
They had started their attempt for the final summit in the early hours of Friday, hoping to accomplish the herculean feat by Friday afternoon.
According to updates posted on Snorri's facebook account on Friday, at 12:29pm, the GPS stopped working and had not updated in six hours.
It stated that Sajid had to return due to his oxygen regulator not working. "They were at a bottle neck at around 10am," the account said.
Citing feedback from Sajid, the account stated that everyone was fine otherwise and going at a good pace until he had been with them.
The army-led search operation was launched after there was no contact with either one of the three mountaineers after Friday.
Chhang Dawa Sherpa, a Nepalese mountaineer who is known for his feat of scaling the 14 highest peaks, including K2, and who was leading the Seven Summit Treks' winter expedition, wrote that no word after 30 hours even, was received from three mountaineers and "none of the GPS trackers seem to be working".
In the latest update shared from Snorri's account, it was stated that no word was received after the night and the last update was that of Sajid safely descending.
"We are grateful to the Pakistani army that has activated a helicopter rescue team and the Icelandic ministry of foreign affairs for their great cooperation. Thanks for all your support, we keep faith," the statement, posted at 11:45am on Saturday, read.
The government tweeted out a message of hope and prayer for the safe return of Sadpara and his fellow mountaineers.
President Arif Alvi also tweeted concern and said he is praying for Sadpara and the others.
Pakistani aviation enthusiast Fakhar-e-Alam tweeted about the missing climbers, requesting his followers to pray for their recovery.
He said that even until after sunset on Saturday, the three climbers were not spotted.
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari also expressed concern over the missing mountaineers.
"Muhammad Ali Sadpara is a hero for Pakistan. His recovery must be made a priority," a statement issued by the PPP Media Cell said.
According to the statement, Sadpara had expressed his resolve to Bilawal to undertake the expedition.
"The recovery of a man who risked his life to wave Pakistan's flag on (one of) the world's highest peak must be made a priority," he reiterated.
News of the mountaineers going missing follows reports of a Bulgarian mountaineer falling to his death during the same K2 expedition.
He was the second person to die on the world’s second-highest mountain in weeks.
Seven Summit Treks — a trekking company leading the expedition — said Atanas Skatov, 42, fell as he was changing ropes during his descent to basecamp.
The Alpine Club of Pakistan also confirmed the incident, saying his body was later recovered and flown by a Pakistani military helicopter to the nearby city of Skardu.
Skatov is the second climber to die on K2’s slopes this season after a Spanish mountaineer fell to his death last month.
A third climber — Russian-American Alex Goldfarb — also died on a nearby mountain during an acclimatising mission ahead of a bid to scale Broad Peak in January.
K2 is known as the “Savage Mountain” because of its punishing conditions: winds can blow at more than 200 kilometres per hour (125 miles per hour), and temperatures can drop to minus 60 degrees Celsius (minus 76 Fahrenheit).
With Pakistan’s borders open and with few other places to go, this winter an unprecedented four teams totalling around 60 climbers have converged on the mountain, more than all previous expeditions put together.
Unlike Mount Everest, which has been topped by thousands of climbers young and old, K2 is much less travelled.