The search operation to locate three mountaineers, including Pakistan’s Muhammad Ali Sadpara, John Snorri from Iceland and JP Mohr from Chile, resumed on Monday despite harsh weather severely limiting efforts.
The search team is currently waiting for another window of opportunity to canvas the mountain, according to Chhang Dawa Sherpa, who is part of the search and rescue efforts.
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.
Alpine Club secretary Karrar Haideri confirmed that a search exercise was conducted earlier today. He added that 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.