Search for Sadpara, 2 other missing K2 climbers to continue on Tuesday 'if weather permits'

Published February 8, 2021
This file photo shows Muhammad Ali Sadpara. — White Star
This file photo shows Muhammad Ali Sadpara. — White Star

The search operation to locate three mountaineers, including Pakistan's Muhammad Ali Sadpara, John Snorri from Iceland and JP Mohr from Chile, on K2 was temporarily suspended on the third day on Monday due to low visibility and poor weather conditions.

The three climbers lost contact with the base camp late on Friday and were reported missing on Saturday after their support team stopped receiving communications from them during their attempt to summit the world's second-highest mountain.

Several experts, including local high altitude climbers Fazal Ali and Jalal from Shimshal, Imtiaz Hussain and Akbar Ali from Skardu, Romanian Alex Găvan, Nazir Sabir, Chhang Dawa Sherpa, and other members of the SST winter expedition team, are part of the rescue mission.

Sharing an update with Dawn.com, Alpine Club secretary Karrar Haideri said the search mission to locate Sadpara, Snorri and Mohr will take place on Tuesday if the weather permitted.

2021 saw the first winter ascent of the 8,611-metre high K2 by a 10-member Nepalese team, raising hopes that other teams would also be able to summit it this season.

Climber Karim Shah Naziri said Tuesday's mission will totally depend on the climbers’ families. “If the families of Ali bhai, Snorri and Pablo [Mohr] issue a statement requesting a search and rescue mission, the procedural formalities will be different. So far the rescue mission was being conducted by the Army on humanitarian [grounds],” said Naziri, who is a part of the rescue operation.

Naziri said another thing to keep in mind would be the weather, emphasising that “if the weather is bad, then the operation might not happen.”

Sharing details, he said: “The teams on ground will have to climb to Camp 3 and check for the missing climbers. Carrying out a search and rescue mission at over 8,000m means having to battle strong winds.

"The climbers went missing over 8,000m – known as the Death Zone – where the helicopters have no reach and sending teams from the ground is a hard task.”

Earlier, Haideri had confirmed to Dawn.com that a search exercise was conducted during the day. He said the current weather conditions had made the search operation very difficult.

Nepal's Chhang Dawa Sherpa and Lakpa Dendi Sherpa were picked up from the K2 base camp by Pakistan Army helicopters but the teams eventually returned.

"Today we were able to make search flights all over by two Pak Army helicopters with the help of the Army Aviation 5 squadron," Dawa said in a statement on Twitter.

"Pilots, Lakpa Dendi and I went through the areas that we were aware of to locate the missing climbers. We had less visibility and the upper parts of the mountain are covered in clouds," he said.

"For the last three days, pilots made a great job, out of their limits but we can't find any clues there. The team is waiting for another permissible weather and search possibility," he added. However, the search team did not get that opportunity due to bad weather.

Explaining how weather limits a search mission, Ali Asghar Porik — the head of Jasmine Tours — said a helicopter needs four hours of fly time which requires clear weather.

"It takes a helicopter 40 minutes to reach the base camp from Skardu. The chopper goes through the valley and for navigation purposes clear weather is a must." Above 5,000m altitude, the weather gets harsher and unpredictable, he said.

"The mountain should be visible clearly or else the search operation can't be conducted," Porik added.

Muhammad Ali's relatives — Imtiaz Ali and Akbar Hussain — who had volunteered for the search mission on K2, were also said to be on their way back.

"They are both experienced high altitude porters and were instrumental in Sajid Sadpara's safe descent the other day," Porik said.

"The weather is at its worst right now and we don't want them to end up in any trouble as getting them out will be very difficult," he said.

"The two feel very strongly about Muhammad Ali since they are from the same family. They are now coming back after we requested that they get down to safe ground," Porik added. Snorri had hired the services of Porik's Jasmine Tours for his K2 winter summit bid. Muhammad Ali and his son Sajid were taken onboard as high altitude porters for the expedition.

Meanwhile, a source wishing to remain anonymous said the Sherpas have wrapped up their base camp. "Canadian filmmaker Elia Saikaly and climber Pasang Norbu Sherpa were taken to Skardu in a helicopter," the source said.

Canadian filmmaker Saikaly has been at the base camp for the last two weeks to make a documentary on Ali Sadpara and his son about their accomplishments.

The Nepalese Sherpas have closed their base camp but have left their satellite phone behind with the liaison officers [for others to use at the site], the source added.

Earlier, Sajid Sadpara, the son of Ali Sadpara, who was also part of the expedition but had to abandon due to equipment issues, said the three climbers probably met an accident while on their way back after summiting the K2. He said the trio had already climbed 8,200m when he broke away from them.

Speaking to the media in Skardu, Sajid said the chances of surviving the extremely cold weather after remaining missing for three days and without proper gear were "very low", adding that an operation could be conducted to retrieve the bodies.

"We had started our push for the K2 summit on February 5 at 12am. I, my father Ali Sadpara, John Snorri and JP Mohr were at the bottleneck, while other climbers had descended," Sajid said, adding that he decided to descend to camp 3 from an altitude of 8,200m after the oxygen regulator he was using leaked.

A photo posted by Instagram (@instagram) on

Sajid said he started his descent from the bottleneck around 12pm and arrived at camp 3 at 5pm, adding that he could not get in touch with the climbers because their communication devices were not functional.

He said he spent that night waiting for the climbers at camp 3, and kept the camp light on so the missing mountaineers would notice it.

On Saturday morning, the base camp manager told Sajid not to move up as the weather conditions were not good, and advised him to begin his descent.

"Unfortunately, the climbers didn't come the next day either," said Sajid, who reached the K2 base camp on Saturday evening.

"My father Ali Sadpara and the other two climbers were crossing bottleneck (8,200m), which is the most technical part of K2, at 11am on Friday. I am sure they went missing while descending from the summit," he added.

He thanked the Pakistan Army, civil administration, the rescue team, and well-wishers for their support and sympathy in this situation.


Additional input from AP

Opinion

Editorial

Not without reform
Updated 22 Apr, 2024

Not without reform

The problem with us is that our ruling elite is still trying to find a way around the tough reforms that will hit their privileges.
Raisi’s visit
22 Apr, 2024

Raisi’s visit

IRANIAN President Ebrahim Raisi, who begins his three-day trip to Pakistan today, will be visiting the country ...
Janus-faced
22 Apr, 2024

Janus-faced

THE US has done it again. While officially insisting it is committed to a peaceful resolution to the...
Elections in India
Updated 21 Apr, 2024

Elections in India

Independent accounts and spot reports are at variance with Modi-friendly TV anchors and they do not see an easy victory for the Indian premier.
IHC letter
21 Apr, 2024

IHC letter

THIS is a historic opportunity for the judiciary to define its institutional boundaries. It must not be squandered....
Olympic preparations
21 Apr, 2024

Olympic preparations

THIS past week marked the beginning of the 100-day countdown to the Paris Olympics, with the symbolic torch-lighting...