Blank ice or deep snow – this is how the eight-thousanders are currently presenting themselves to climbers attempting them this winter. “Compared to last time, the conditions are much icier,” Jost Kobusch tells me.
Just over a week ago, he had climbed Mount Everest towards the West Shoulder, on the same route that had taken him to just below 7,400 meters during his first winter attempt two years ago. As he did then, this year Jost is again climbing solo and without bottled oxygen. “There wasn’t as much snowfall as last time. And the little snow didn’t stay on the ice, of course, but was immediately blown away.”
It will probably be a base camp weekend. Whether on Mount Everest and Manaslu in Nepal or on Nanga Parbat in Pakistan, meteorologists are expecting snowfall this weekend on all eight-thousanders where climbers are already staying in order to climb these mountains this winter.
Jost Kobusch is recovering – according to his GPS tracker – in the village of Lobuche at nearly 5,000 meters from his previous days’ climb towards the West Shoulder of Everest. The maximum altitude his tracker showed was 6,464 meters yesterday (Thursday) before he descended back into the Khumbu Glacier Valley via the Lho La, a 6000-meter pass between Nepal and Tibet.
“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.
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.
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.
The winter cards on Manaslu are being reshuffled. After a huge impassable crevasse at an altitude of about 6,200 meters stopped the climbers of the two winter expeditions, the Nepalese Vinayak Jay Malla announced a change of plans. Actually, the 32-year-old and his 29-year-old compatriot Tenji Sherpa had wanted to climb the eighth highest mountain on earth as a duo in alpine style. “Though disappointed to have to change our original approach, we have decided to wait here at Base Camp and will team up with some of the Nepali legends who recently conquered K2,” Vinayak let it be known.
Actually, the Icelander John Snorri Sigurjonsson, Muhammad Ali Sadpara, the most successful Pakistani high-altitude climber, and his son Sajid Ali Sadpara had wanted to reach the 8,611-meter-high summit of K2 today. But the trio, who in December became the first winter team to arrive at the foot of the world’s second-highest mountain, abandoned their summit attempt and returned to base camp today.
According to John Snorri, the three climbers decided to rest below Camp 3 on Sunday after a 17-hour ascent. His GPS tracker showed the maximum altitude reached as 6,831 meters. “At that time it was clear to us the strong winds came sooner than expected,” the Icelander let it be known after returning. “This morning, when we were packing our tent, Ali’s backpack blew away and exploded. We managed to safe some of the things in the backpack but lost our summit masks.”
“We are feeling good and very well acclimatized,” writes Tenji Sherpa, who plans to climb the 8,163-meter-high Manaslu in western Nepal with his Nepalese compatriot Vinayak Jay Malla this winter. “Currently we are at base camp, a schedule rest day and (we are) waiting for the good weather window.” However, stormy high-altitude winds are forecast for the eighth-highest mountain on earth this weekend, which can reach hurricane force in the summit zone.