Three experienced high altitude mountaineers have been missing on K2 (8,611m) on the China-Pakistan border since 5 February. Pakistani climber Muhammad Ali Sadpara, John Snorri of Iceland and J.P. Mohr Prieto of Chile were last sighted by their teammate, Ali Sadpara's 22-year-old son, Sajid, at the technical 'Bottleneck' section (8,200m) of the mountain. Feeling unwell, Sajid opted to use bottled oxygen, but the regulator failed to function and he was encouraged to descend to Camp 3 (7,400m) by his father and the Base Camp team, where he waited overnight in deteriorating weather conditions for 20 hours with no sign of his teammates, before safely descending alone. Today, with poor weather forecast for the coming days, helicopter rescue missions have been temporarily suspended.
When the three climbers failed to return on the evening of the 5th, Sajid had briefly looked for headtorches or other signs of movement, but nothing was sighted. On 6 February, Sajid descended to Base Camp on the insistence of his team at Base Camp. The summit team had no walkie-talkies or satellite phones, Sajid reported, and their GPS trackers were low on battery during their summit push and ceased to function. Rescue organiser Vanessa O'Brien told Explorersweb that data from the climbers' sat phones is currently being analysed.
Three helicopter rescue missions were carried out this weekend up to the flying limit of 7,800m by the Pakistan Army - with some assistance from Chhang Dawa Sherpa and Sajid Sadpara - who reported no sign of the three climbers, either along the Abruzzi route or on the Cesen route (a possible line of descent) on the South Face. Photos of the mountain taken from the helicopter were analysed at Base Camp but revealed no clues.
Weather and poor visibility have hampered further helicopter or ground searches. Sadpara's relatives - experienced mountaineers Imtiaz Hussain and Akbar Ali - began a rescue mission on foot on 6 February but turned back at around Camp 1 due to worsening weather.
Sajid was flown to Skardu on 7 February as the rescue mission continued. In an interview with Skardu TV, Sajid reported that the trio had climbed to around 8,200 metres when he turned around to head for Camp 3. He said that he believed his father and his partners had summited, but ultimately not survived the descent due to extremely high winds. "The winds on the mountain are very strong and the temperature has dropped to -60 degrees. In such conditions, a person can survive for a maximum a day[...] I have told the rescuers to now continue the operation to find the bodies," he told the news outlet.
Today, Pakistan's Minister of Tourism said: "The rescue has been suspended for the time being due to bad weather, but it's not over yet. It's also important to let you know that the weather forecasts for next one week is not favourable. Anytime we get the weather window, the search will be resumed..."
Muhammad Ali Sadpara (45) was one of the most experienced mountaineers at K2 this winter season, having summited eight of the fourteen 8,000 metre peaks, including Nanga Parbat four times, one of which was the first winter ascent alongside Simone Moro and Alex Txikon. Pakistan's government recently announced that Sadpara's remaining 8,000 metre peaks would be sponsored, relieving him of the need to work as porter in support of wealthier mountaineer's ascents, as he done for much of his mountaineering life.
Juan Pablo "J.P." Mohr Prieto (33) had summited Annapurna, Manaslu, Everest, Lhotse and Dhaulagiri, all without supplementary oxygen, the latter two ascents being made alongside Sadpara. He has three children.
John Snorri Sigurjonsson (48) was on his third expedition to K2, with ascents of Lhotse, K2, Broad Peak and Manaslu. He has six children.
The 'Savage Mountain' has claimed two lives so far this season. Spanish climber Sergi Mingote fell to his death from between Camp 1 and ABC on 16 January and Bulgarian mountaineer Atanas Skatov fell below Camp 3 on 5 February.
The historic first winter ascent of K2 was made by an all-Nepali team on 16 January (UKC News).
Read more about the complexity and limitations of helicopter rescue at altitude in Pakistan in the article below:
*Please be aware that fake news from unverified sources has been widely shared - especially on Twitter - since the climbers' disappearance.*