The eight-thousander Manaslu in western Nepal remains an almost impregnable winter fortress. With the Spaniards Alex Txikon and Inaki Alvarez and their Sherpa team, the last climbers on the eighth highest mountain on earth also threw in the towel at the weekend.
“We were very close, but in the end it was not possible,” said Alex Txikon. “The weather forecasts don’t show any improvement for at least 10 days and after that we don’t know what will happen. So it’s very risky to extend the permit.” The permit from the Nepalese government was only valid until 28 February, the end of the meteorological winter. Twice, Txikon and Co. had ascended to an altitude of around 7,000 meters before bad weather and deep snow had forced them to turn back.
Again nothing. For the second time in five days, the team around the Spaniard Alex Txikon had to end their summit attempt on the eight-thousander Manaslu in western Nepal at an altitude of about 7,000 meters. Just like last Sunday, the weather put a spoke in their wheel today. Txikon, his Spanish compatriot Inaki Alvarez and the Sherpas Chhepal, Gelum and Namja turned around and descended to the base camp. “Sanity has made us turn around at 7.050m, when we were facing the ramp towards the C4,” says Alex. “The safety of the team is above all and if we continued with that wind we surely would not have counted it.”
It will be a race against time. For Saturday, on the 8,163-meter-high Manaslu in western Nepal, strong winds in high altitude are expected again. Nevertheless, the Spaniards Alex Txikon and Inaki Alvarez, the Italian Simone Moro and the three Sherpas Chhepal, Gelum and Namja set off yesterday for another summit attempt. Moro, however, turned back in Camp 1 at about 5,700 meters after talking to Austrian meteorologist Karl Gabl.
“Pakistan has lost a great mountaineer, my father and two other climbers are no more with us.” Sajid Ali Sadpara said today at a press conference in Skardu in northern Pakistan what had actually been in the air for days, but no one wanted to announce publicly. But as difficult as it is to admit it, 13 days without any sign of life and without any trace of the three climbers missing on K2 can only mean one thing: Pakistani Muhammad Ali Sadpara, Icelander John Snorri Sigurjonsson and Chilean Juan Pablo Mohr paid for their summit attempt on the second highest mountain on earth with their lives.
The good news first: all climbers on the eight-thousander Manaslu in western Nepal have returned safely to base camp from their summit attempt. The not-so-good news: the hard work done by Alex Txikon’s team over the past few days was in the end in vain. According to Txikon, the end of the line was at above 7,000 meters on Sunday, the originally planned summit day. “The wind made us turn around,” the 39-year-old Spaniard let it be known yesterday after returning to base camp.
The climbers had fought their way up through partly waist-deep snow. “We made a huge effort but it was rewarding,” Alex added today. “We have suffered cold, hunger and fear. Now, from base camp, is the time when we are truly aware of what we have done. We only missed one day, now we look forward to good chances! Go, go, goooo!”
This week, however, more snowfall is expected on the eighth-highest mountain on Earth. In a new summit attempt, the climbers would probably have to fight their way through deep snow again, avalanche danger included.
“My tin whistle is an essential part of my climbing equipment,” says Sean Villanueva O’Driscoll. “When I’m dangling high up a vertical cliff, stuck in a storm in a small portaledge for days in a row, my tin whistle is there to make sure that I’m not waiting. I’m being. I play music.” The climber with the flute has now succeeded in making quite an extraordinary melody on the granite rocks of Patagonia: The Belgian professional mastered the so-called Fitz Traverse – solo.
Conditions on Manaslu are not ideal, but when are they ever in winter? In the past few days it has been snowing on the eighth highest mountain on earth. And so the two Spaniards Alex Txikon and Inaki Alvarez, the Italian Simone Moro and four Sherpas, who support the Europeans, have to work their way up through partly deep fresh snow.
Bad weather on K2 prevents for the time being the further search for the three missing climbers Muhammad Ali Sadpara, John Snorri Sigurjonsson and Juan Pablo Mohr. The mountain rescuers were standing by, the Pakistani military said. As soon as weather permitted, the search would continue, it said.
Flights by rescue helicopters had been suspended on Tuesday because of adverse conditions – lack of visibility, strong winds. Imtiaz Hussein and Akbar Ali, two climbers related to Muhammad Ali Sadpara, also had to abandon their attempt to search for the missing on the mountain. Metereologists expect a window of good weather from the beginning of next week, with hardly any wind for days.
The sad news just don’t stop. Italian ski mountaineer Carlalberto, called “Cala” Cimenti has been buried by an avalanche while freeriding on a mountain near the northern Italian resort of Sestriere. The 45-year-old and a friend with whom he was skiing could only be recovered dead.
Giving up is not an option – not yet. For the third day in a row, Pakistan Army rescue helicopters searched the mountain flanks of the 8,611-meter-high K2 for the three climbers missing since Friday: Muhammad Ali Sadpara from Pakistan, John Snorri Sigurjonsson from Iceland and Juan Pablo Mohr from Chile. The result as on the previous days: no trace of the trio.
Elia Saikaly, a photographer with Ali Sadpara’s expedition, reported from base camp that two Pakistani climbers – Imtiaz Hussain, a cousin of Muhammad, and Akbar Ali, a nephew of the missing Pakistani – wanted to ascend today to search for the three climbers. “We will climb as high as we can within our limits,” Imtiaz is quoted as saying. “There is hope, but we know the reality of the mountain, especially in winter.”
The great concerns about the Icelander John Snorri Sigurjonsson, the Pakistani Muhammad Ali Sadpara and the Chilean Juan Pablo Mohr continue. Again today, rescue helicopters of the Pakistani army flew twice to the 8,611-meter-high K2 in the Karakoram to search for the missing climbers on the flanks of the mountain: again no trace of the trio. They had last seen by Muhammad’s son Sajid Ali Sadpara on Friday midday local time at the so-called “Bottleneck”, a key point of the route at around 8,200 meters. Since then, there has been no sign of life from the three climbers.
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.
Sad news from the second highest mountain on earth: Bulgarian climber Atanas Skatov fell to his death on K2 while descending from Camp 3. His body was recovered by the crew of a Pakistani rescue helicopter. Atanas was only 42 years old.
“While changing his safety from one rope to the other, seems some errors occured and he fell down,” Chhang Dawa Sherpa, expedition leader of Nepali operator Seven Summit Treks, let it be known from K2 base camp. “We had fixed the mountain with new ropes and it’s not broken.” Initial reports of Skatov’s fall had said a fixed rope had broken.
Atanas had arrived at Camp 3 at around 7,300 meters on Thursday, but had then decided to turn back – exactly why is still unclear. ” With humility and prayers to the King of the Mountain – Mount Chogori! God forward and we after him!,” Atanas had written before setting off for the summit attempt.
Among the summit aspirants in Camp 3 are Chilean Juan Pablo Mohr and South Tyrolean Tamara Lunger, who want to ascend without bottled oxygen. Icelander John Snorri Sigurjonsson and the Pakistani father-son duo Muhammad and Sajid Ali Sadpara also want to push towards the summit on Friday – with bottled oxygen.
The other climbers who remained in the base camp after the first winter ascent of K2 are champing at the bit. In the next few days, the wind, which had recently made an ascent impossible, is expected to subside. For next Friday, meteorologists expect an almost windless day, as if made for a summit push. “This might be the last fair weather window until the February snowfall will start,” Chhang Dawa Sherpa, expedition leader of the Nepalese operator Seven Summit Treks, wrote today from base camp.