K2: Looking for Answers

8000ers K2
K2 last winter. Photo: Oswald Rodrigo Pereira

This summer, filmmaker Oswald Rodrigo Pereira has returned to K2 to discover more about the location and the circumstances of last winter’s disappearance of Ali Sadpara, Juan Pablo Mohr, and John Snorri.

Pereira, from Poland, went to K2 last December to film Magdalena Gorzkowska’s climb. Although she aborted her summit push, the pair witnessed the dramatic events: the Nepalis’ first winter summit success on January 16; the separate accidents that took the lives of Sergi Mingote and Atanas Skatov; and the subsequent summit push by western climbers, which ended at Camp 3 for everyone except for John Snorri, Juan Pablo Mohr, and Ali Sadpara. They left for the summit on the morning of February 5 and never returned.

Climber and cameraman Oswald Rodrigo Pereira. Photo: Oswald Rodrigo Pereira

When Gorzkowska returned home, she claimed that one of the Sherpas returning from the summit said that they had cut the ropes on their way back, to keep anyone else reaching the summit. Given the mysterious circumstances in which three climbers perished shortly afterward, her comments created a firestorm of controversy.

Disputed allegations

Mingma G of the Nepali summit team fiercely disputed these allegations. He pointed out that no one descending from K2 after an exhausting push would take the trouble or the risk to cut ropes behind them. In an interview with ExplorersWeb, Gorzkowska said that her words had been taken out of context. She clearly understood that the Sherpa was only joking about the ropes.

“I spoke to Mingma David after their summit and he confirmed that they not only left all the ropes but also put in some new ones for us,” Gorzkowska said.

Assuming that Pereira dodges the last-minute flight cancellations that have plagued other climbers heading to Pakistan, he will arrive in Islamabad today. He then flies to Skardu and treks into K2 Base Camp, where he will remain until the beginning of August. He did not say whether he intends to summit.

Survivor Sajid Sadpara, left, announced months ago that he would try to find the remains of his father Ali Sadpara, right, and John Snorri. Juan Pablo Mohr disappeared as well. Photo: John Snorri

Pereira is not the only one returning to K2 to try to make sense of last winter’s tragedy. Ali Sadpara’s son, Sajid, was the first to declare that he wanted to find and retrieve the bodies of his father and the two others. He also planned to lead a cleaning operation along the Abruzzi Spur.

The young Pakistani survived because his father told him to turn around when his oxygen system failed. He waited for the climbers in Camp 3 for the night, but then had to descend as the weather worsened. Sajid said they had reached the Bottleneck (8,200m), but he was also confused from hypoxia, so many possibilities exist from the moment that the missing climbers left Camp 3.

It remains unclear whether Sajid Sadpara will be able to launch his search+clean project. It’s not enough to be a strong climber. Fundraising and the complex organization of such an expedition may prove too great a hurdle for the young man.

The mystery surrounding the disappearance of the three winter K2 climbers has touched a chord, and everyone on K2 this summer will clearly keep a sharp lookout on its upper slopes.

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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
1 month ago

There will be other people on K2 also. The Nepali guides aren’t allowed into Pakistan because of covid, but Mirza Ali will be guiding about 10 clients. If the team fell into the crevasse or died somewhere else on the route, the next party to climb may find them. How is Pereira going to get up K2 without a guide? Obviously the solution is for him to hire Sajid.

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Last edited 1 month ago by Don Paul
MuddyBoots
MuddyBoots
1 month ago
Reply to  Don Paul

Don Paul: Angela’s article on June 10 says Pakistan now will allow Nepalis into the country as long as they have a vax certificate, negative PCR, and compulsory 10 day quarantine on arrival…and a few other conditions. How many are able/willing to do this is the question, so the effect still could be no Nepali guides this season.

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Anna
Anna
1 month ago
Reply to  Don Paul

Team of 10 fit people. It’s a difficult job to bring some one down.

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