Tuesday Feb 09 2021
Web Desk

After 72 hours, K2 search for missing mountaineers continues as weather gets harsher

Web Desk

  • Families of missing mountaineers decide to continue rescue mission
  • Search and rescue mission had come to a halt after 72 hours due to bad weather
  • Mountaineers Muhammad Ali Sadpara, John Snorri and Juan Pablo Mohr went missing Saturday after summiting K2

SKARDU: The families of three missing climbers from Iceland, Chile and Pakistan have decided to proceed with their rescue mission after 72 gruelling hours of nonstop intensive search-and-rescue efforts came to a halt due to bad weather.

Mountaineers Jon Snorri, Ali Sadpara and Juan Pablo Mohr had joined forces to make a summit bid on K2 – the last 8,000 metre peak unclimbed in winter until a team of 10 Nepali summited earlier this year. 

Rao Ahmad, Ali Sadpara’s long-time friend and Sajid Sadpara, Ali Sadpara’s son, along with British-American climber, Vanessa O’Brien, who also serves as Pakistan’s Goodwill Ambassador and summited K2 with Snorri, have formed a virtual base camp to ensure a thorough search-and-rescue effort.

Read more: Search operation on K2 for Ali Sadpara, other mountaineers enters third day

O’Brien released a statement on behalf of the families of John and Pablo, thanking everyone who expressed interest in their climb and concern for their wellbeing.

Those who prayed for their safety and offered ideas and thoughts on the use of drones and search locations, we heard you and appreciate the care, concern and compassion you showed, the statement read.

The families have requested the Pakistan government continue to provide search and rescue support, weather permitting.

The search and rescue mission

Gilgit Baltistan’s Home Secretary Muhammad Ali Randhawa shared pictures taken of the K2 on the Pakistan Army Aviation Helicopters during the third day of the search operation.

Earlier, Randhawa had tweeted saying that the third-day helicopter search mission by Pakistan Army aviation began at 9:30am.

The secretary had shared the update once the helicopters had reached the basecamp.

Read more: Twitter prays for Pakistani mountaineer team's safe return

“Dawa Sherpa of Seven Summit Treks will again guide the helicopters at K2 where to see, possible targeted areas to spot the missing bodies,” said the secretary. He had also warned that the weather was “building up today”.

Separately in a Facebook post, Sherpa shared the details of the search operation.

"Today we were able to make search flights all over 7000m by two army helicopters with the help of the Army Aviation 5 squadron," said Sherpa.

The Nepali climber said that the army pilots, Lakpa Dendi, and him went "through the areas" that they "were aware of", to locate the missing climbers.

"We had less visibility and the upper mountain is covered in clouds. For the last three days, pilots made a great job, out of their limits but we can't find any clues there," said Sherpa. He also added that the team was waiting for "another permissible weather and search possibility".

Chances of Ali Sadpara's survival 'next to none', says son Sajid

On Sunday, Sajid Ali Sadpara, the son of Ali Sadpara, had said that the chances of his father being alive "are next to none".

In a conversation with reporters in Skardu, where he arrived earlier on Sunday, Sajid said: "Rescue operations now only make sense if they are carried out to bring back his body. Otherwise, the chance for anyone to survive at 8,000 metres [after being missing for] two to three days are next to none."

Read more: Pakistani mountaineer Ali Sadpara, 2 others reported missing on K2 expedition

Sajid said that a team of four mountaineers began their climb at around 11pm-12am on February 5 (the night between Thursday and Friday).

"Unfortunately, I was without oxygen and at a height of about 8,200 metres in the winter. I felt like my health was getting affected as well as my mental well being."

"My father was carrying another oxygen tank which he offered me to use. But as I began fitting the oxygen mask regulator, it leaked. So, I had to climb down," he narrated.

Sajid said that the last time he saw his father was at the bottleneck at around 8,200-8,300 metres, the most "technical portion" of the climb, at around 11am on Friday.

"I'm sure he summited the peak and was on his way back after which he encountered an accident which is why he is missing," he said.

Mountaineers go missing

Sadpara and two other mountaineers — John Snorri from Iceland and Juan Pablo Mohr from Chile — had gone missing on Saturday after which a search operation to retrieve them was launched.

Helicopters flew to a height of 7,000 metres on Saturday afternoon in their attempt to locate the missing mountaineers but were unable to find any clue to their whereabouts.

Read more: Ali Sadpara summits 8485-metre Makalu peak in Nepal

It had been reported two days ago 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 had since then cautioned that the climbers' status is unclear and there has been no communication from their end since Friday.