K2 Rescuers Refuse To Quit: Is it Worth it?

K2 Winter 8000ers

John Snorri, Ali Sadpara, and Juan Pablo Mohr have been missing on K2’s upper slopes for over five days, in frigid winter temperatures, amid storms that will continue for some time. And yet, the people supporting the search refuse to call it off.

Helicopters have scanned the mountain for three days on high-risk flights, with the pilots forcing their Lama helicopters beyond their usual altitude roof to a whopping 7,800m. On several occasions, climbers from Base Camp joined them to help search and to shoot photos for later study.

All their efforts have yielded no trace of the missing climbers. “[Perhaps] they have not been found yet because they built an ice cave or shelter,” a press release stated earlier today. “If they had enough fuel to melt water, it could have extended their lifeline, but it depends on how low they made it down on the mountain.”

The document was signed by Ali Sadpara’s friend Rao Ahmad, Sajid Sadpara, and by Vanessa O’Brien, who summited K2 with Snorri in 2014 and acts as a sort of goodwill ambassador in Pakistan.

The document further states that searchers are working with Iceland’s Space Agency to review high-resolution satellite imagery in order to closely analyze the higher elevations of K2 despite the bad weather. They have also obtained data from the devices that the climbers carried: John Snorri’s Thuraya satellite phone, JP Mohr’s Inmarsat, and their Garmin InReach trackers.

It is unknown whether such data have proved useful in any way.

The tracking signals from the InReach devices, for instance, have shown no significant results, according to RaceTracker.

Last tracks’ of John Snorri (green) and JP Mohr (blue) combined on a satellite map of K2. Graph and analysis: RaceTracker.es

English translation of the text in the right-hand sidebar:

Juan Pablo Mohr started the summit push on February 4 at 4:02h from waypoint marked as “Lower C3” at 6,967m. At 10:58h and after gaining 365 vertical metres, he switched his tracker off. Then he switched it on again, with a new signal sent at 11:05h, just some metres away from the previous signal. The device sent two more location points: the last one was sent four minutes later at 7,276m, with batteries at a “Normal” level of charge.

John Snorri set off 30 minutes later than Mohr: at 4:29h from 6,542m. At 14:33h, he passed by 7,298m, nearly at the same point where JP had sent his last signal three and a half hours before. He kept climbing until the last location point sent from his device, at 3:15h on February 5, and at 7,823m high. His InReach registered “Low battery”.

Mountain.ru has shared the SAR satellite images of the mountain. As the site suggests, it’s unlikely that these will help locate the climbers, either.

K2 Bottleneck area (in red) on the SAR satellite images, provided by Iceland’s Space Agency. Shared on Mountain.ru

Finally, the rescue coordination team says that helicopter searches will resume as soon as the weather improves and that Ali Porik of Jasmine Tours is keeping open the Base Camp that he outfitted for John Snorri. There also remain four Pakistani climbers who were reportedly searching every day, until the fierce weather pushed them back to their tents. It is unclear whether any of them is currently in Camp 1.

Meanwhile, the big Seven Summit Treks group has left Base Camp, some by helicopter, others on foot to Skardu, led by Chhang Dawa Sherpa.

In the end, the question remains, whether future efforts made by helicopter pilots and the brave climbers are worth it. As the region’s Minister of Tourism noted yesterday, “it’s also important to accept that their chances of survival are evaporating.”

Nearly everyone who knew and cared for the missing climbers have paid tribute to their memory. The response to Ali Sadpara’s disappearance, in particular, has been overwhelming, not only in Pakistan, where he has become a sort of national hero, but from climbers all around the world.

“Ali knew everyone in Base Camp and was adored by so many,” said John Snorri’s photographer, Elia Saikaly. “Whether dancing at Base Camp, joking around with John and the kitchen staff — his smile, charm, warm heart, sense of humor and kind spirit will always be what defines this great man.”

Many climbers have paid tribute to Ali but few of them are as mournful as Stefi Troguet: “My heart is broken,” she said. “K2 is been ruthless. Ali is one of my favorite souls on earth. He spills his energy on everyone around him. We shared 2×8,000m. He is FAMILY. Losing your altitude family in a couple of weeks is devastating.”

In three weeks, the young, ever-smiling Andorran climber has lost three of her 2019  partners from Nanga Parbat — Ali Sadpara, Sergi Mingote, and Cala Cimenti. Hopefully, she’ll be soon recover her positive energy and direct it into new projects.

Colorful Memories from Nanga Parbat, 2019. Stefi Troguet and Ali Sadpara. Photo: Stefi Troguet

In our Comments section, ExplorersWeb readers have cited a recent interview (in Urdu below) with Pakistani climbing legend Nazir Sabir, who firmly dismisses all false hopes. Some readers were keen enough to translate the highlights of the interview, in an exciting (and highly educated) debate after yesterday’s K2 story.

Below, part of the interview, translated by reader Farukh Ali, in which Sabir discusses the missing climbers.

Q: People are waiting for a miracle right now. What are the survival chances for the whole team?

A: I was interviewed by VOA 3 days ago and I told them very clearly that their chances of survival (provided they haven’t gotten into an avalanche), without activity above 8,000m, is maximum 10 hours. After 10 hours, you will be frozen.

Q: Some of Ali’s relatives are still hopeful that he would be alive. What would you say to that?

A: It’s total madness, and I feel so sorry for the families. If Sajid is saying this, then there’s something wrong with him. We can expect this from someone who has never seen a mountain in his whole life.

In winter, above 8,000m nobody can survive more than 10 hours, even with oxygen. One oxygen cylinder at 2 psi only lasts 15 hours. According to Sajid, they had just one oxygen cylinder.

Q: What are the chances of finding the dead bodies on K2?

A: If they didn’t fall or meet an avalanche, people who climb in summer will probably see their bodies.

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About the Author

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides

Senior journalist, published author and communication consultant. Specialized on high-altitude mountaineering, with an interest for everything around the mountains: from economics to geopolitics. After five years exploring distant professional ranges, I returned to ExWeb BC in 2018. Feeling right at home since then!

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Don Paul
Don Paul
4 months ago

Vanessa O’Brien knows the ice cave idea makes no sense. It’s just a political circus now.

+2
Claire Anderson
Claire Anderson
4 months ago
Reply to  Don Paul

Also you should have credited the actual artist, Pete Dredge.

0
Claire Anderson
Claire Anderson
4 months ago
Reply to  Don Paul

Sorry don’t know how my reply ended up below your comment, again sorry. Doesn’t seem to be anyway to delete comments.

0
Abs
Abs
4 months ago
Reply to  Don Paul

That’s correct, I’m not sure where they are getting the idea of an ice cave.. how will they even survive in there without water, food and warmth?

+1
Jodie
Jodie
4 months ago

Is there truly no way that they could have made an ice cave and hunkered down? I doubt they are alive but if there’s a chance I know if it were my dad and he was so good at climbing I’d want to give him every opportunity for rescue.

0
Paul
Paul
4 months ago
Reply to  Jodie

No, not possible to make ice cave, only possible to find some shelter in crevassa. But it will not help much, you can’t survive there long becouse of hypothermia and without drinking you die within 3 days as well. There is no reason to think that they are alive. RIP Ali, John and JP

0
Sean
Sean
4 months ago
Reply to  Jodie

I understand that position very well, but at this point the chances of finding anyone alive are 0%. I’m not even sure if it’s wise to try to recover the bodies. This mountain was not meant to be climbed.

+2
believer
believer
4 months ago

where there is hope there is faith

+1
Claire Anderson
Claire Anderson
4 months ago

Using the cartoon at the top of this article is in poor taste and lacks empathy for the lives that have been lost on K2 this winter.

+1
Claire Anderson
Claire Anderson
4 months ago

Thank you for removing the cartoon. Vanessa O’brien should not have posted that to her Instagram, very disrespectful of her.

+1
Samson Simon Sharaf
4 months ago

The best we can do for the lost climbers is pray for their souls and work for reforms I underlined in my three tweets. 1. Ministry of Tourism & Alpine Club Pakistan have to do serious thinking about commercialization that plagues Everest. Only technically sound climbers should be permitted. 1/3 2.K2 is too technical and dangerous to be attempted by rich novices who can be carried to the summit like Everest. Need to set new SOPS for for equipment & safety including oxygen cylinders. 3. Set up a porter training centre at Skardu. All 8000ers are here. Askole must have… Read more »

Uttam
Uttam
4 months ago

Sure, commercial tour operators can turn K2 into another Everest in no time. They should not be left to their own devices for they have very little incentive to self-police their wrongful behaviors, unethical practices, or curb their excesses, if they can get away with it. We may already be seeing some of these on K2. What is the Pakistani government doing or going to do about it? If it doesn’t set clear parameters within which commercial tour operators and independent climbers [such as John Snorri who hired his own high altitude porters Ali & Sajid] can operate AND enforce… Read more »

Don Paul
Don Paul
4 months ago
Reply to  Uttam

I wonder if any of the permits were obtained by bribes. If so this is a job for the NAB.

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Jodie
Jodie
4 months ago
Reply to  Uttam

You are absolutely right. It’s not in Paks best interest monetarily to set parameters. Quite the opposite. Tragedy pays well sad to say. They won’t even start a rescue unless they are paid ahead of time. I have to laugh when I see people saying “oh thank you to the Pakistani government for sending up their choppers” because they are NOT doing it out of the kindness of their hearts lol. Every time tragedy strikes and they send up a chopper they make big BIG bucks on it and you can bet the pilot who’s risking his life isn’t making… Read more »

Gule
Gule
4 months ago
Reply to  Jodie

I don’t understand the relevance of most of the comments that you have made. It seems that they are based on personal prejudices and ignorance. The rescue team that is searching aren’t from govt, they’re soldiers from Pakistan Army, and it’s their choppers being used.

+3
Michael Omar Yusaf
Michael Omar Yusaf
4 months ago
Reply to  Jodie

You are wrong. The search and rescue efforts to date have been set in motion as soon as an SOS was declared. Common sense dictates that pre payments, as you describe them, are impossible to arrange in such short time frames.
You have a nasty mind, my friend.
But what is worse is that you knowingly spread lies.
Go get a life mate, and grow up.

+6
Alswer
Alswer
3 months ago
Reply to  Jodie

Your comments depicts your sadistic mindset and biasness

0
Enrique Cruz Tagle
Enrique Cruz Tagle
4 months ago

None of this climbers were novice al off them have climbed at least 4 8000’s before

+1
Farukh Ali
Farukh Ali
4 months ago

Thank you for crediting me, Angela. It’s an honor to have my name in the article.

+1
Samson Simon Sharaf
4 months ago
Reply to  Farukh Ali

I am impressed by your comments. Contact me on twitter

0
Farukh Ali
Farukh Ali
4 months ago

Thank you, Sir. I’ll contact you.

0
Samson Simon Sharaf
4 months ago

I am doing some research on tracking and shall get back shortly

0
Climb From Home Mountaineer
Climb From Home Mountaineer
4 months ago

Here is the full translated transcript from the interview; Q: First of all, I’d like to get directly to the point (about Ali Sadpara). Can you please tell me about the decision of Ali Sadpara to climb K2 during winter. Was it according to his own accord or because he was employed? A: Well, he went with Jon Snorri (he was employed by Jon Snorri). You should know by now (the people of Pakistan) and I was telling a few others the past few days that you people are making it seem like (on social media) that Jon Snorri was… Read more »

Ron
Ron
4 months ago

Regardless of whether one thinks they can physically summit and return, its likely something sudden happened on the way up. They were only 400m from the summit in the morning.
They had to make a call when they summited or decided to turn back, which never happened.
Hard to beleive all 3 would become fatally incapacitated from exhaustion/altitude after Sajid’s departure and before they can even make a call.

+2
Sean
Sean
4 months ago
Reply to  Ron

That’s what I believe, Ron. I don’t think they even summited. Something unexpected happened during those last 400 meters.

+1
Michael Omar Yusaf
Michael Omar Yusaf
4 months ago
Reply to  Ron

It is my understanding that they succesfully accomplished the ascent, and uploaded images of themselves at the summit.
Their disappearance occurred during the descent.
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.dawn.com/news/amp/1605747

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Lyuba
Lyuba
4 months ago

“John Snorri set off 30 minutes later than Mohr: at 4:29h from 6,542m. At 14:33h, he passed by 7,298m, nearly at the same point where JP had sent his last signal three and a half hours before. He kept climbing until the last location point sent from his device, at 3:15h on February 5, and at 7,823m high. His InReach registered “Low battery”.” I am a bit confused with these hours. Basically, the article states that John Snorri was climbing from 4 am on Feb 4 and reached 1300m elevation gain in 23 hours, shown with the last signal at… Read more »

Anabell
Anabell
4 months ago
Reply to  Lyuba

I think the times are correct. At 14.33 = 4.2. 2.33 p.m. Snorri nearby Mohr. In the night of 5.2. I kept updating the page again and again (-4h time shift) without change at the display.

+1
F v
F v
4 months ago
Reply to  Lyuba

Time of John’s garmin tracker is UTC+1. PK time is UTC +5. So he left lower C2 6542m at 4 feb 8:29 am PK time. He reached C3 7300m around 6.30PM PK time. There he stayed for 6 hours. He left C3 for summit attempt around 5 feb 0.30AM PK time. Last signal of his tracker on 5 feb 7.15AM PK time on 7824m (position of C4 in summer, on “the shoulder”). It corresponds with the story of Sajid they reached the bottleneck around 10AM PK time. Seems not different time from the 10 Nepalese at first sight, except they… Read more »

Anabell
Anabell
4 months ago
Reply to  F v

-4h is here winter time (actually-5). Sorry

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Lyuba
Lyuba
4 months ago
Reply to  F v

I see. So, to equate the times in PK time, the last signal from JP is at the level of C3 (7300) at 3 PM PK time on Feb 4 and the last signal from John Snorri is around the summer position of C4 (7800) at 7:15 AM Pakistani time on Feb 5.

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Don Paul
Don Paul
4 months ago
Reply to  F v

The climbing style seems strange to me also. JS leaves by himself expecting to follow fixed lines, they are buried in snow so he must have had to solo up to camp 4. I would have wanted a belay, lol. Later they must have been tied together, and all blown off the mountain, or buried in an avalanche together. I don’t think Sajid has said whether they were tied together when they headed up the bottleneck.

+1
Phipu
Phipu
4 months ago
Reply to  F v

@F v, your timetable shows exactly what went wrong. 7h compared to 2,5h only to C4 with a very long way to go. Also the fixed lines help you a lot do descent saver and quicker. So already at C4 the facts were cleary showing that this isn’t going to work. Even more so at bottleneck, behind schedule, no fixed lines, no rest. With all these signs it is a mystery for me why you even proceed. Sadly they did. I personally don’t think something happened like an accident. I just think they were too exhausted to get down and… Read more »

F v
F v
4 months ago
Reply to  F v

Looking a litte longer at it, the height of normal C4 is mostly lower, at 7650m. At 2:29 AM he reached 7661m. That means he reached C4 in 2 / 2,5 hours? At that point the tracker showed long time weird points, some sources said he had a tent with him, then it could be possible he put up the tent to warm and take some rest, points of GPS started getting higher around 5:15AM. Noted: the weird points of the tracker makes it not really suitable for making detailed analysis, more an attempt to find comfort / explanation of… Read more »

Anabell
Anabell
4 months ago
Reply to  F v

Maybe he wanted to take the section slower and they make together in a group of four a hard push through the bottleneck. The plan would make sense?

0
Sean
Sean
4 months ago

It’s too dangerous for anyone to be on that mountain. Call off the search immediately! We don’t need any more fatherless children.

0
Paul McCartney
Paul McCartney
4 months ago
Reply to  Sean

We do not need any more fatherless children. But the example set by those risking their lives to search for others lost on the mountain is an inspiration to the young everywhere.

+1
Sean
Sean
4 months ago
Reply to  Paul McCartney

Let it be, Paul. Let it be.

0
Abbas
Abbas
4 months ago

Hi Angela.. just replying to your blogs title question.. The search effort is still being pursued for closure only.. I don’t think it’s too find them alive, it’s a recovery operation rather than rescue. Sadpara family climbers who are there to search are probably in denial hence need evidence of their end either ways.. what I’m not sure is how will their search help because unless you have the acclimatisation and the skills and endurance to summit K2 in the next available window, there’s not much you’ll find in the lower camps.. they’ll have to get up beyond bottleneck to… Read more »

Atli Vidar Thorsteinsson
Atli Vidar Thorsteinsson
4 months ago

Just so it’s clear, Iceland doesn’t have a space agency. They must be confusing it with something else, but there’s no space agency.

0
Thor
Thor
4 months ago

Iceland actually does (http://spaceiceland.is).

+2
Atli Vidar Thorsteinsson
Atli Vidar Thorsteinsson
4 months ago

Yeah Thor is right, I had no idea even though I’m Icelandic. Please disegard my comment.

+1
Masood Zaidi
Masood Zaidi
4 months ago

Allah is the only rescuer in such conditions. They might got into a cave at lower height. May or may not be.

0
harold
harold
4 months ago

Nazir sabir is on point, the search efforts are futile, for the dead its disrespectful to think they are alive if they have perished long ago, people who believe in praying and afterlife find peace by praying for the departed souls, The current situation is just got to the point where its not even hope its denial. You cant pray someones alive if they passed away before the praying even started. Rest in peace legends, you all were capable of summiting k2 in the winter but sometimes luck isnt all on your side, its time we celebrate what they achieved… Read more »

Nicola T
Nicola T
4 months ago
Reply to  harold

I imagine that rescuers have such a big motivation to stay close to their heroes, that they feel uncomfortable staying at home. So they are trying until energies and motivation finish, but at least they can say to themselves “As a pakistani, I tried”. It seems there is a 5/6 days window starting next sunday. I do hope they calculate every risk and keep a large safety margin in any action.

0
Michael Omar Yusaf
Michael Omar Yusaf
4 months ago
Reply to  harold

Well spoken, Harold.

0
Jose
Jose
4 months ago

Please…. pray for them!!! The chilean people pray everyday for everybody!! with the intact faith !

0
Lilid
Lilid
4 months ago

“February 12, 2021, 11:00 AM: Second FLIR msission will be carried at K2 today at 1130 AM to locate missing climbers. Weather is clear but few clouds. Virtual basecamp carried out the analysis of the picture of geospatial data received from Chile and Iceland space agencies. No conclusive evidence yet prayers requested.” Source: https://www.skardu.pk/live-update-ali-sadpara-k2-winter-expedition/

0
Samson Simon Sharaf
4 months ago

Now I am getting curious that something very wrong took place and the climbers fought back gallantly. I have collected all possible tracking and satellite data including the one on this page. Too early as obvious conclusions are baffling. Sent data to computer expert for mapping. Coupled with my experience of the area, I shall then be able to conclude. I will just give a hint of what I am thinking. 1. The last recorded Waypoint is this at 07:15 AM. Feb 5, 2021 7:15:15 AM Speed: 0.00 km/h Elevation: 7,823.55 m Batt: Low Lat: 35.879180 Lon: 76.523358 2. The… Read more »

Michael Omar Yusaf
Michael Omar Yusaf
4 months ago

Having read all the comments up to this point, it is hard not to be underwhelmed owing to the inanity of many of the observations and opinions.
Samson’s comment, at this point in the discussion, is the most sensible observation backed by thoughtful research.

+1
Autumn
Autumn
4 months ago

I’m not sure what that would imply. Would you mind elaborating?

0
Abbas Reza
Abbas Reza
4 months ago

So their high point was before the last reading, which was lower? Does that mean they were on their way back? (after summitting or not summitted at all)?

The zig zag can’t be their actual movement – i’ve read thats the gps tracker misbehaving as normal during these conditions. Go figure ..

0
harold
harold
4 months ago

John Snorri K2
Feb 12, 2021
8:41:00 PM

Speed: 0.00 km/hCourse: N/AElevation: 4,953.00 mBatt: LowLat: 35.832176Lon: 76.507823

0
harold
harold
4 months ago
Reply to  harold

this is the last update on his tracker
very strange please if anyone can check the tracker and may know more?

0
Harold
Harold
4 months ago

This is the blue dot on his tracker not sure what this means but sure is strange
How come nobody noticed this
I randomly checked the tracker after the recent comments this is what I found, don’t know what it means if someone knows please educate me

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CAD366D6-399F-45F7-BB98-8D0E3F38FD83.jpeg
Samson Simon Sharaf
4 months ago
Reply to  Harold

Been at it for past 36 Hours. A new location has just come in on the Glacier

0
Abbas Reza
Abbas Reza
4 months ago
Reply to  Harold

That doesn’t look right .. i’m not getting those readings when i click on it. The blue point was his start point – so must be some data glitch.

They have perished. We’ve been so engrossed with this saga this time for some reason that we think the outcome should be different .. its the same. Once you have disappeared for that many days, you’re gone.

What we need to do now is to dig deeper if we can on finding out how this happened and fix any blunders for all the climbers to come.

0
Samson Simon Sharaf
4 months ago
Reply to  Abbas Reza

These Blue ones were not there 24 hours ago. Comparatively recent. Yes hope pushes us.

0
M.E.
M.E.
4 months ago
Reply to  Abbas Reza

Agreed, there is a high chance that they perished. Under the circumstances that they disappeared and the search mission underway, if a new point pops up via tracker, it will be beyond reason to simply call it a “glitch” and move on. It needs to be looked into. If Garmin’s trackers can generate a bad GPS location days after the tracker is assumed “out of battery” then Garmin should not be making such safety-critical devices, to begin with.

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Last edited 4 months ago by M.E.
Samson Simon Sharaf
4 months ago

These are the latest three locations. Can spot Base cup about 400 M above

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latest position.jpeg
Samson Simon Sharaf
4 months ago

Some pictures

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Route 1.jpg
Samson Simon Sharaf
4 months ago

Google Earth tracked with waypoints of Garmin

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Route.jpg
Samson Simon Sharaf
4 months ago

Some needs to find out is Snorri had a second tracker at base camp and someone else is now using it

+1
Samson Simon Sharaf
4 months ago

Confirmed from Garmin Website he has two trackers. Green and Blue

+1
Harold
Harold
4 months ago

Figured out the tracker situation
Snorri had two a mini tracker the green one which he took along me the initial tracker he used until basecamp
Someone must have used it but it wasn’t Snorri that’s for sure, not the other mountaineers either. It shows the same location from where Snorri last updated that tracker so I think that’s why it didn’t materialise as it doesn’t mean anything

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Samson Simon Sharaf
4 months ago

Just confirmed that @john_snorri also had a laptop installed tracker he left in base camp. If the 3 locations are from that, then who switched in on? SAR are at it.

+1
Weasel
Weasel
4 months ago

They perished in one of the most beautiful places in this world, they knew the risks, but it doesn’t help the families. RIP.

0
David
David
3 months ago

Wonder if it’s too late for them to get their money back..?

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