Search for three missing climbers on K2 suspended

The three lost contact with base camp late Friday and were reported missing Saturday after their support team stopped receiving reports from them during their ascent of the 8,611-meter (28,250-foot) high K2 mountain

ISLAMABAD: An aerial search to find three experienced climbers who lost contact with base camp during their ascent of the world’s second-highest mountain in the Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) region has been suspended, officials said.

Sadpara, John Snorri from Iceland and MP Mohr from Chile have not been contacted since the three began their push for the K2 summit from camp 3 at midnight between Thursday and Friday, according to their team.

Two military helicopters flew to their maximum limit of 7,800 metres for a second time and conducted aerial reconnaissance for an hour to locate the missing climbers on Sunday. The search team traced the Abruzzi and other routes but did not see any signs of the mountaineer.

Meanwhile, speaking to a news channel, Sajid asked the government to continue the search operation for recovering bodies of climbers as they now may not be alive. “At such a high altitude and at the death zone of K2, they may not survive for such a long time,” Sajid said.

“I last saw them crossing the Bottleneck of K2 at around 10 am,” explained Sajid, adding that he had started to descend after he experienced health issues at the altitude and his oxygen cylinder began leaking.

“I waited for my father and others at Camp 4 for many hours, preparing water and food for them. I kept the light of camp on to help them find the camp while descending. However, I did not receive any message from them,” he said.

A member of the mountaineers’ team, Chhang Dawa Sherpa, in a tweet on Sunday said: “Today, first flight by army in the morning with @eliasaikaly made it up to 7000 m and second flight in the afternoon by two army helicopters (along with Sajid and I) made a search”.

He added that they could unfortunately not find a trace of the missing mountaineers and according to him, the wind above 6,400m was still 40 km/hour.

Karrar Haideri, a top official with the Alpine Club of Pakistan, said that army helicopters resumed the search that began Saturday for Ali Sadpara and his two companions, John Snorri of Iceland and Juan Pablo Mohr of Chile.

The three lost contact with base camp late Friday and were reported missing Saturday after their support team stopped receiving reports from them during their ascent of the 8,611-meter (28,250-foot) high K2 mountain.

“The base camp received no signals from Sadpara and his foreign companions after 8,000 meters. A search is on and let’s pray for their safe return home,” Haideri told The Associated Press.

News of the missing men comes a day after a Bulgarian mountaineer was confirmed to have died on K2.

He is the third mountaineer to die on K2’s slopes this year, after a Spanish climber fell to his death last month.

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

On Saturday, choppers flew to a height of 7,000 meters (23,000 feet) to try to locate the missing mountaineers with no success.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) issued a statement saying Iceland Foreign Minister Gudlaugur Thór Thórdarson spoke to his Pakistan counterpart, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, through the telephone.

Qureshi assured him that Pakistan will spare no effort in the search for the missing mountaineers.

Sadpara and his team left their base camp on February 3, a month after their first attempt to scale the mountain failed because of weather conditions.

Haideri noted Sadpara’s experience as a mountaineer who has climbed the world’s eighth highest mountains, including the highest, Mount Everest, and was attempting to climb K2 in winter.

K2 is the most prominent peak on the Pakistan side of the Himalayan range and the world’s second tallest after Mount Everest. Winter winds on K2 can blow at more than 200 kph (125 mph) and temperatures drop to minus 60 degrees Celsius (minus 76 Fahrenheit).

A team of 10 Nepalese climbers made history on January 16 by scaling the K2 for the first time in winter.

Ghulam Abbas
Ghulam Abbas
The writer is a member of the staff at the Islamabad Bureau. He can be reached at [email protected]
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