Group photo of the missing climbers.
Group photo of the missing climbers.

ISLAMABAD/GILGIT: Bad weather on Sunday hindered operations to rescue the three climbers who have been stuck on Rakaposhi for the last two days after conquering it, according to the Alpine Club of Pakistan (ACP).

Czech climbers Jakub Vicek, Peter Macek and local climber Wajidullah Nagri have been stranded in Camp III on the 7,788-metre-high peak in the Karakoram mountain range of Gilgit-Baltistan, said ACP Secretary Karrar Haidri.

Pakistan Army (Aviation) helicopters will resume the rescue mission on Monday.

According to the army’s aviation officials, two helicopters took off from Skardu and landed at Gilgit airport and flew to Rakaposhi to search for the climbers and observed the surrounding areas.

Sources said during the first round of the rescue operation, pilots flew flights above an altitude of 6,000m but the mountain was wrapped in clouds and winds were too strong. The helicopters returned to Gilgit for refueling.

The second round was also not successful due to bad weather conditions on the peak. The stranded climbers are in touch with their families through satellite communication.

The climbers have expressed the hope about being rescued despite losing their strength. One of the climbers is suffering from high altitude sickness, including depletion of energy.

“Camped at 6,900 metres, the climbers have already been stuck for two days. While Nagri is in good shape and keeping in touch with us, one of the Czech climbers is suffering from frostbite and the other is sick,” Mr Haidri told Dawn.

On Sunday, two army helicopters that were on standby were unable to fly to pick up the rescue team, including professional climber Abdul Joshi and two others from Hunza. Both helicopters remained grounded at the Gilgit airbase as the mountain was wrapped in low level clouds. Aviation helicopters will pick up the rescue team today.

“As soon as the weather permits, the two army helicopters are due to pick up the rescue team and then head to Rakaposhi,” Mr Haidri added.

Furthermore, the two Czech mountaineers were climbing without permits and this has intensified their problems.

“Climbing without permits complicates the protocols of the bureaucracy for rescue operations,” Mr Haidri said, adding in any case it was unlikely that the helicopters could reach a height of 6,900 metres.

“The stranded climbers will probably need to descend at least as far as Camp II or a ground team will need to go up and try to reach them. It is also not clear which route the stranded climbers took on ascent. It is believed that they established a new route to the top. This presents yet another problem. There is no information on ropes, camps or the precise condition of the stranded climbers.”

After the successful summit, Nagri has become the second Pakistani climber to summit Rakaposhi after Sher Khan over 40 years ago. According to ACP, Rakaposhi is the only mountain in the world whose climb involves gaining over 5,000 vertical metres from the base camp to the summit.

Deputy Commissioner Nagar Zulqarnain Khan said the climbers had scaled Rakaposhi on Thursday and began their descent on the same day.

They had begun ascent of the peak on Sept 1 from the South Ridge. Joshi, a professional climber from Shimshal valley will lead the ground rescue.

Published in Dawn, September 13th, 2021

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