ISLAMABAD, March 13: It's not just bad weather that thwarted rescue efforts to trace the three missing mountaineers on the Gasherbrum I or the Hidden Peak on Friday but there was also lack of coordination."This is an extreme sport with dangers beyond comparison. And when these extraordinary men and women need our help, lack of coordination and a centralised system should be the least of concerns," an official with the Alpine Club of Pakistan said, hinting on how it had to use its own contacts/resources to call in the aerial rescue.
The official explained how in advanced countries there were separate wings that could respond in five to 10 minutes to such accidents.
"Here, rescuers are called in after the disaster that too if the helicopter is not dropping off supplies of flying VIPs. We should be prepared especially when the government/Askari Aviation demands $6,000 ($5,800 refundable) from each expedition up front in case helicopter services are necessary," said the official.
"Then somebody needs to keep families of climbers informed and give them hope that we are doing our best to bring back their loved ones," the official said, explaining how the Alpine Club had been having difficulties in keeping Gerfried Goschl's daughters informed who had been calling to learn about the well-being of their missing father.
Asserting on centralised system for the welfare of climbers that came round the year from around the world, the Alpine Club explained how devolution of the Ministry of Tourism worsened team work between the concerned offices and priorities were confused.
Vitaly Gorelik, one of Russia's most powerful climbers who was part of the 14-member winter expedition on K2 last month, died of heart attack in a base camp. The rescue helicopter could not reach the climber due to bad weather. But the mountaineering community in not so many words attributed his death also to lack of coordination between concerned departments.
"He lay there in the camp for three days," said a professional Pakistani mountaineer who described the situation as a blow to the soft image of Pakistan.
The three climbers who went missing roughly 400 metres from their goal on GI were no ordinary climbers. The Pakistani high altitude porter, Nisar Hussain had conquered all five 8,000ders in Pakistan. His next challenge was the Mount Everest, said an official in the Alpine Club.
While the Swiss climber, Cedric Hahlen was up there with the best of the best, mountaineering ran in the Austrian expedition leader Gerfried Goschl's blood. His father Rainer Goschl was among the first to summit the 7,200-metre Diran Peak on August 17, 1968.
"The Goschl's contributed generously for schools after the 2005 earthquake," said another Alpine Club official.
Nonetheless, bad weather on Tuesday forced authorities to postpone rescue operations again for the missing climbers.
Polish climbers Darek Zaluski and Agnieszka Bielecka could not make to Camp I and were forced to return.
Askari Aviation, on Tuesday also had to abort aerial rescue. "We are ready to lift off on the word 'Go'. We have been looking for a clear window. It is dangerous for pilots to negotiate through the high peaks," said General Manager Askari Aviation Col Mustafa Kamal Siddiqui, adding there were no updates on the condition/location of the missing climbers.