Search on K2: Waiting for better weather

K2
The 8,611-meter-high K2 in the Karakoram (in summer 2004)

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.

Nothing is worse than uncertainty

The families of the three missing have asked that the search for the climbers continue. Realistically, the chance of finding them alive tends to zero. Since last Friday, when Sajid Ali Sadpara saw his father and the other two climbers at the “Bottleneck” at around 8,200 meters, there has been no trace of them and no sign of life. But any certainty, however sad, is better than uncertainty when it comes to dealing with a tragedy. All three missing persons are, after all, family men: John Snorri has six children, Muhammad four and Juan Pablo three.

Chaotic conditions in Camp 3

In the meantime, the Nepalese expedition organizer Seven Summit Treks has pulled down its tents at K2 base camp. Only a few Pakistanis remained behind to support the further search. Not only because of the unresolved fate of the three missing persons, the processing of the winter season on K2 is only at the beginning.

In an interview with a Bulgarian broadcaster, the Greek climber Antonios Sykaris reported chaotic conditions in camp 3 at 7300 meters. He said there were far too few tents there for the about 20 climbers who wanted to attempt the summit last Friday. “We all stayed outside and tried to figure out how to surviveI tried,” Sykaris said, describing the situation on Thursday evening last week. “I tried to get into one tent and people told me there was no room.” It was incredibly cold, he said, around minus 40 degrees Celsius. Like other climbers, Sykaris contracted frostbite.

Fixed rope broken or not?

Except for Sajid Ali Sadpara and the now-missing three climbers, everyone else had descended the next morning. According to the Greek, in some passages of the route the fixed ropes were buried under snow. Bulgarian Atanas Skatov had fallen to his death on the descent. In the preliminary investigation report of the Gilgit-Baltistan regional government, a broken fixed rope is cited as the cause of the accident. Chhang Dawa Sherpa, expedition leader of Seven Summit Treks, had contradicted this.