Season’s balance in the Karakoram: Nothing groundbreaking

Sunrise at Gondogoro La in Karakoram

The climbing season is over – what remains? This is a question we should perhaps ask ourselves more often when we look at what is happening on the world’s highest mountains. Were there any truly groundbreaking ascents that added new, exciting chapters to the book of alpinism? There were a few such attempts this summer in the Karakoram, but they all failed – either because of the conditions on the mountain, as in the case of Graham Zimmerman and Ian Welstedt’s attempt on the rarely climbed West Ridge of K2, or as in the case of the Czech expedition to the still unclimbed 7,453-meter-high Muchu Chhish in the Batura Massif, where Pavel Korinek and Tomas Petrecek turned back at 6,600 meters in waist-deep snow.

Or they failed because of the weather, as in the case of Nancy Hansen and Ralf Dujmovits on the also still unclimbed 6,810-meter-high Biarchedi I. Or because of an accident, as in the case of the Briton Rick Allen, who was caught in an avalanche and died while attempting to open a new route on K2 in alpine style with the Austrian Stephan Keck and the Spaniard Jordi Tosas. Equally tragic was the fatal fall of Kim Hong-bin on Broad Peak – just hours after the South Korean had become the first disabled climber to complete his collection of the 14 eight-thousanders.

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Mystery of tragic winter summit attempt on K2 still unsolved

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

It seems like a puzzle that takes time to put together. And possibly it will never be completed. Even after the bodies of the three missing climbers Muhammad Ali Sadpara from Pakistan, John Snorri Sigurjonsson from Iceland and Juan Pablo Mohr from Chile were found on K2, the crucial questions remain largely unanswered: What exactly happened to them last winter? And were they really at the summit, as media reported, especially in the three home countries of the climbers who perished?

Canadian climber and filmmaker Elia Saikaly, who had been searching for the missing along with Muhammad’s son Sajid Ali Sadpara and Nepalese Pasang Kaji Sherpa, is cautious. “Our work continues here. We jump to no conclusions as we continue to put the pieces together and search for evidence of a successful winter ascent,” Saikaly wrote on social media.

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K2: Zimmerman and Welsted give up on the West Ridge, further summit successes

On K2 West Ridge
On K2 West Ridge

They have thrown in the towel. American Graham Zimmerman and Canadian Ian Welsted abandoned their attempt on the rarely climbed, challenging K2 West Ridge and returned to base camp. The two were climbing in alpine style, meaning no bottled oxygen, no fixed high camps and no high altitude porters.

“In the end we were stopped in our tracks by some of the warmest temperatures either of have experienced in the big mountains,” Zimmerman wrote on Instagram. “At 7,000m we were unable to go any further due to near constant avalanches and rock fall down the route.”

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K2: Missing winter climbers found, first summit successes

K2
The 8,611-meter-high K2, the second highest mountain on earth – on the left the West Ridge

The first summit successes of the summer season are reported from K2. Among those who reached today – with bottled oxygen – the highest point at 8,611 meters was also the only 19 years old Pakistani climber Shehroze Kashif. Last May, Kashif had also scaled Mount Everest, and in 2017 he summited Broad Peak – since then he has been called “Broad Boy” in his homeland.

All those who reached the summit of K2 today had also passed the bodies of Muhammad Ali Sadpara, John Snorri Sigurjonsson and Juan Pablo Mohr. The Sherpas of a commercial team that fixed the ropes had discovered yesterday the bodies of the three climbers who had been missing since their winter summit attempt in early February and were later declared dead.

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Mourning for Rick Allen after avalanche on K2

Rick Allen died on K2 – this picture was taken by Canadian Louis Rousseau in summer 2018.

One of the great British climbers is no longer with us. The 68-year-old Scotsman Rick Allen died yesterday in an avalanche on K2. Rick was reportedly planning to open a new route up the world’s second highest mountain with Austrian Stephan Keck and Spaniard Jordi Tosas – in alpine style, i.e. without bottled oxygen, high altitude porters and prepared high camps.

Where exactly the route was to go up is unclear; some reports say on the southeast side of K2, while others speak of the avalanche-prone East Face, which has never been climbed. Keck and Tosas escaped the avalanche. The Spaniard remained at K2 Base Camp, the Austrian was flown out to the town of Skardu. According to reports from Pakistan, Allen’s body was found near the Advanced Base Camp.

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K2 and Broad Peak: Difficult search for missing climbers

The eight-thousander Broad Peak in Pakistan (in 2004)

The South Korean climber Kim Hong-bin is almost certainly dead since last Monday, but signals from his satellite phone could still be located later – at 7,000 meters on the hard-to-access Chinese east side of the eight-thousander Broad Peak. Whether Kim’s body lies there or only his satellite phone is still open. The South Korean news agency Yonhap reported on Friday that the Chinese authorities had allowed Pakistani rescue helicopters to search for Kim on Chinese territory. The Chinese had set up an operations center near the site of the accident to assist in the search effort, it said.

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On the trail of the missing from K2

John Snorri Sigurjonsson, Juan Pablo Mohr and Muhammad Ali Sadpara (from left)

Missing, but unforgotten. Five months ago, Pakistani Muhammad Ali Sadpara, Icelander John Snorri Sigurjonsson and Chilean Juan Pablo Mohr had not return from their winter summit attempt on K2. After several unsuccessful aerial searches, the three climbers had been declared dead, 13 days after setting out.

Two weeks ago, Sigurjonsson’s family and friends said goodbye to John Snorri with a church service in Iceland.

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Samina Baig: Climbing K2 for the women

Samina Baig (r.) at K2 Base Camp.

Samina Baig lives her dreams. Pakistan’s best-known female climber wants to fulfill another one on K2: She wants to be the first woman in her home country to stand on the 8,611-meter-high summit this summer. With her Pakistani team, the 30-year-old arrived last Thursday at the base camp at the foot of the second highest mountain on earth. Once again, Samina wants to take up the cudgels for her countrywomen. ” Being a woman, my message to people is to encourage and support their daughters and let them choose their own profession,” the climber said before setting off for the Karakoram. “Let them make their own mark.”

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Missing climbers on K2 declared dead

K2
The 8,611-meter-high K2 in the Karakoram

“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.

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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.

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Hardly any hope left for the three missing climbers on K2

View from the helicopter on the summit zone of K2
View from the helicopter on the summit zone of K2

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.”

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Three climbers on K2 still missing

K2 summit zone
K2 summit zone (seen from the helicopter)

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.

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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.

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Atanas Skatov fell to his death on K2

Atanas Skatov
Atanas Skatov (1978-2021)

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.

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Winter expeditions: Before summit push on K2 – Nepalese give up on Manaslu

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

It smells of further winter summit successes on K2. After ten Nepalese succeeded in the first winter ascent of the second highest mountain on earth on 16 January, at least about a dozen climbers reached Camp 3 at 7,300 meters today. From there, they planned to set off towards the summit on Friday. As before, meteorologists expect little wind for tomorrow.

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.

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