GILGIT: Just like the mountaineers’ community, the nation eagerly awaits any news about Muhammad Ali Sadpara, the man on a mission to wave the national flag on the world’s top peaks, and the two foreign climbers who lost contact with their team on Friday after crossing the last bottleneck on K2, as army helicopters searched for them on Saturday before returning to Skardu without success.
Mr Sadpara, John Snorri from Iceland and Juan Pablo Mohr from Chile have not been contacted since the three began their push for the K2 summit from camp 3 at midnight between Thursday and Friday, according to their team.
The three climbers went missing hours after the death of Bulgarian mountaineer Atanas Skatov while scaling K2, also known as The Savage Mountain, it was confirmed.
According to the Alpine Club of Pakistan, two Pakistan Army helicopters started a search and rescue mission on Saturday at 11am to locate the three missing climbers who have not been in contact with their team for over 30 hours.
Chhang Dawa Sherpa, the SST winter expedition team leader, said the army’s helicopter made “a search flight almost up to 7,000m and returned to Skardu”.
“Unfortunately, they can’t trace anything,” he shared.
Prayers, wishes for climbers’ safety after search flight returns
“The condition up on the mountain and even at the base camp is getting poor. We are looking for further progress, but the weather and winds are not permissible,” he wrote.
It is still unclear if they managed to summit the peak on Friday or not.
Speaking to Dawn, an official from the expedition team said the only verified news was that the climbers had crossed the bottleneck that led many to assume they had reached the summit.
Meanwhile, Sajid Sadpara, the son of Muhammad Ali who was also part of the expedition, reached the K2 base camp after waiting for the three climbers at Camp 3 for over 20 hours. Sajid had been with the three until the bottleneck and returned to Camp 3 after facing issues with his oxygen regulator.
At 12:00am on Friday, around the time they began their climb to the peak, Snorri’s official Facebook page shared the update that the climbers were unable to rest over the day as “three other climbers needed shelter in their tent so there were a total of six people in the small tent”.
“The climbing went well. They were feeling a little sick but are okay now,” the post added.
However, more than seven hours later the team shared that there had been no news from Camp 3.
“The GPS track is unclear going back and forth. I believe it is just some misreading from the [satellite] signal or low battery. We need to keep our faith and believe they will succeed.”
The team later shared the update that the GPS had not updated Snorri’s location in six hours.
“They have been climbing for 12.5 hours and [Snorri] mentioned 15 to 16 hours to the summit. Their chef at the base camp thinks they’re in the bottleneck [...] His plan was to call me when he reached the summit. I am hoping for that plan to continue.”
At 5pm, Snorri’s team said they were in contact with the expedition team’s chief and base camp manager. “We have decided not to bother them and wait until they will contact [base camp manager]. We are not listening to other news, we are the only source to the team.”
However, on Saturday the Snorri team said it had not heard from the three climbers. “The only news we have is that Sajid Ali [Sadpara’s son] is descending safe from camp 3.”
It also thanked the Pakistan Army for carrying out a search and rescue mission using a helicopter and the Icelandic ministry of foreign affairs for their cooperation.
Meanwhile, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari prayed for safe return of Mohammad Ali Sadpara and his colleagues.
Sadpara is proud national hero who has risked his life to wave the national flag on the world’s highest peaks, all possible efforts to be taken to locate the missing men, he said.
Meanwhile the high altitude porters have returned to K2 Base Camp along with Sajid.
Published in Dawn, February 7th, 2021