Great concern for climber trio on K2

Rescue helicopter at K2
Pakistan Army rescue helicopter at K2

Alex Txikon sums it up: ” Waiting for the miracle is the only thing we have.” The Spanish climber follows the rescue operation on K2 in Pakistan at the base camp on the eight-thousander Manaslu in Nepal. For more than a day there has been no news or trace of John Snorri Sigurjonsson from Iceland, Pakistani Muhammad Ali Sadpara and Chilean Juan Pablo Mohr on the second highest mountain on earth.

The climbers had set out Friday from Camp 3 at 7,300 meters towards the summit. At 10 a.m. Pakistani time, Muhammad’s son Sajid Ali Sadpara left the trio because his oxygen regulator didn’t work. At that time, the climbers were at the so-called “Bottleneck” at around 8,200 meters. Sajid returned to Camp 3, where he waited for the other three until Saturday morning. But they did not come. Chhang Dawa Sherpa, expedition leader of Seven Summit Treks, said he finally persuaded Sajid to descend because he had been at high altitude for too long. The 22-year-old meanwhile reached the base camp.

K2 with snow banner (in 2004)

A rescue helicopter took off from Skardu. The crew searched K2 up to an altitude of about 7,000 meters – in vain: no trace of the three missing climbers. In addition, the weather has deteriorated, the wind has picked up again.

Realistically, only one hope remains: that John Snorri, Muhammad and Juan Pablo have survived the night – in a snow cave or whatever – and can descend under their own power. The Icelander and the Pakistani were en route with bottled oxygen, the Chilean actually wanted to ascend without abreathing mask.

A lot of eight-thousander experience

Muhammad Ali Sadpara and John Snorri Sigurjonsson
Muhammad Ali Sadpara (l.) and John Snorri Sigurjonsson

45-year-old Muhammad Ali Sadpara is the only Pakistani who has summited eight of the 14 eight-thousanders. After scaling all five eight-thousanders in his home country – K2, Nanga Parbat, Broad Peak, Gasherbrum I and II –, some of them several times, Muhammad Ali also reached the summits of Lhotse, Makalu and Manaslu in Nepal in 2019. The 44-year-old has summited Nanga Parbat four times. In 2016 he was part of the trio that achieved the historic first winter ascent of the mountain.

John Snorri, 47, scaled – with bottled oxygen – the eight-thousander Lhotse in spring 2017, K2 and Broad Peak in the summer of the same year. In fall 2019 he reached the summit of Manaslu, it was his fourth success on an eight-thousander.

For the 33-year-old Chilean Juan Pablo Mohr, K2 should become the sixth eight-thousander without bottled oxygen. In 2017 he had summited Annapurna, in 2018 Manaslu, in 2019 Mount Everest, Lhotse and Dhaulagiri.

Lunger and others back at base camp

Tamara Lunger and Juan Pablo Mohr (in January)
Juan Pablo Mohr (r.) with Tamara Lunger (in January)

South Tyrolean Tamara Lunger, who actually wanted to ascend to the summit with Mohr without  breathing mask but then decided to descend in Camp 3, returned safely to base camp yesterday. Some of the other climbers who had also abandoned their summit attempts suffered frostbite. The Polish Magdalena Gorzkowska, who complained of severe abdominal pain, was flown by helicopter to Skardu.

On Friday, Bulgarian Atanas Skatov had fallen to his death while descending from Camp 3. It was the second fatality this winter season on K2 after the fall of the Spaniard Sergi Mingote. On January 16, ten Nepalese had succeeded in the first winter ascent of the second highest mountain on earth.   

Update February 7, 11 a.m.: Still no trace of the three missing climbers. There is to be another search by rescue helicopter, allegedly also one on the mountain. However, the latter is not confirmed. There are many speculations and also false reports circulating.