Rakaposhi: Rescue Attempts Fail — Climbers Must Descend Themselves

Alpine style Karakorum
Abdul Joshi (left) and Karim Hayat prepare to board the helicopter. Photo: Karim Shah Nizari

Wind has thwarted all rescue attempts on 7,788m Rakaposhi. The three stranded climbers may need to save themselves. But at least two of them are sick or injured.

The new day brought hope for Jakub Vlcek, Peter Macek, and Wajidullah Nagri, trapped at 6,900m. Clear weather allowed the helicopters to lift off this morning. Flying as light as possible — the Pakistani army pilots removed the seats and even the doors — they managed to reach nearly 7,000m. They flew just 20m above the stranded climbers’ tent. As Abdul Joshi confirmed later, the pilots saw one of the men exit the tent.

The pilots discussed whether long-lining them out was possible. Unfortunately, the extreme altitude and increasing wind forced them to turn to plan B. In the afternoon, Abdul Joshi and Karim Hayat boarded the helicopter, ready to be dropped somewhere on the southwest ridge, at approximately 6,000m.

Abdul Joshi confirmed the situation at the time in this video (in Urdu), shared on Twitter by Imran Thaheem.

By then, however, the wind was so strong that pilots could not drop the rescuers high on the mountain. In the end, they left Hayat at the expedition’s Advanced Base Camp, so he could study the route from its starting point. They brought Joshi back down.

Pessimistic about rescue options

Back on the ground, the pilots and rescuers were pessimistic. Besides the wind, there seems to be no safe place on the ridge to drop the rescuers, Karim Shah Nizari told Explorersweb. Joshi and Hayat would have to scale virtually the entire route, and it’s a very hard climb, in uncertain conditions.

An expert French team who did that route alpine-style this summer took four days. Member Hellias Millerioux told ExplorersWeb that while not as technically difficult as some faces in the European Alps, “it’s very, very long and highly demanding.”

Late today, a single helicopter takes off toward Rakaposhi, hoping to drop supplies and ropes to the stranded climbers. Photo: Karim Shah Nizari

Now, as evening approaches the Karakorum, the rescue team is trying one final option. They will drop ropes, water, and food near the stranded climbers, hoping that this will help them descend by themselves. But even that plan is not free of risk.

“Dropping these items is a highly technical operation because helicopters must fly with a certain speed [they cannot hover at that altitude], and the tent is on a ridge,” Nizari said. “We have prepared three packs so that if one falls in the wrong place, the pilots will try to drop a second and then a third pack.”

At 4 pm local time (11 am GMT, 7 am EDT), a single helicopter with only the two pilots and the three packs took off. We expect an update after they return. They will also pick up Hayat from ABC on their way back to the base.

Even if the drop goes successfully, it is unclear whether the climbers can proceed further down. As Dawn reported earlier today, one of the Czechs is frostbitten and the other is suffering from Acute Mountain Sickness. According to an update posted by VIcek’s home team, an avalanche risk also exists on the slopes below them.

Currently, night is approaching in Pakistan. Sunset takes place at 6:17 pm local time today.

Meanwhile, there’s good news from Saraghrar: the Georgian climbers reached Base Camp earlier today.

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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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Apy
Apy
2 days ago

Spellbinding reporting Angela. But what horror. 😨😰😱 These men most probably don’t have the force by now to descend by themselves.

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Marie
Marie
2 days ago
Reply to  Apy

Horror indeed. If the wind was less strong tomorrow, the rescuers could try it again though.

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Rodrigo
Rodrigo
2 days ago

What bad news! I hope that they can receive food and water so that they can go lower by themselves

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jams
jams
2 days ago

If the men are too weak to descend then it looks like curtains for them unfortunately.

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