GILGIT: The aerial and ground search for missing Pakistani mountaineer Muhammad Ali Sadpara and his team members Jon Snorri of Iceland and Juan Pablo Mohr of Chile has been suspended due to harsh weather.
The three have not been contacted since the midnight between Thursday and Friday when they began their push to K2 summit from their camp 3. They were last seen at the Bottleneck barely 400 metres below the summit of K2, also known as the Savage Mountain.
Gilgit-Baltistan Tourism Minister Raja Nasir Ali Khan on Tuesday said the rescue operation had been suspended for the time being, but it was not over yet.
“Weather forecast for the next one week is not favourable. However, the search will be resumed anytime we get the weather window,” he said in a statement.
“Akbar Ali and Imtiaz Hussain, relatives of Ali Sadpara and high altitude climbers, had to retreat from upper camps of K2 in the face of the hostile weather,” the minister said.
Decision made due to harsh weather at Savage Mountain
“We are using all options with the help of our army, but it’s also important to accept that the chance of the mountaineers’ survival is evaporating,” he said.
GB Home Secretary Mohammad Ali Randhawa said cloudy weather, some snowfall and strong wind continued at K2.
“A request for FLIR (forward-looking infrared cameras) with latest avionics package has been sent to the Pakistan Air Force,” he said.
According to a press release issued by the families of the missing climbers, the authorities made a difficult decision to proceed with the rescue mission but after 72 grueling hours non-stop intensive search-and-rescue efforts came to a halt due to bad weather, hoping that it could be resumed in the shortest possible time.
Ali Sadpara, Jon Snorri and Juan Pablo Mohr had joined forces to make a summit bid on K2, the 8,000-metre peak unclimbed in winter until a team of 10 Nepalese summited it earlier this year.
The press release said Rao Ahmad, Ali Sadpara’s long-time friend and Sajid Sadpara, Ali Sadpara’s son, along with British-American climber Vanessa O’Brien, who also serves as Pakistan’s goodwill ambassador and has summited K2 with Jon Snorri, had formed a virtual base camp to ensure a thorough search-and-rescue effort.
There were reasons why K2 has not been climbed in winter before, and these reasons made a search-and-rescue mission almost impossible, the families noted.
The freezing temperatures with chilly wind, average -50 degrees Celsius temperature along with exhausted climbers created a challenge, but everyone did what they could, they said.
“We are grateful for the six helicopter flights by the Pakistan Army pilots, who pushed the upper limits during each of these search flights,” they said.
“Many thanks, too, to Canadian-filmmaker Elia Saikaly for capturing imagery during these search-and-rescue flights, and to [the expedition leader] Chhang Dawa Sherpa for providing his expertise.
Retd Lt Col Hassan bin Aftab, Director of Operations at Pakistan Analytica, coordinated logistics for the search-and-rescue attempts and served as the point person for the families.”
Published in Dawn, February 10th, 2021