K2: An Earthquake and an Accusation

An earthquake in Pakistan, and a controversial accusation that sends shock waves through two countries

A 6.4 earthquake jolted Pakistan earlier yesterday. Although the epicenter was in Tajikistan to the north, the tremor shook Islamabad, Lahore, and the Northern Areas. At the same time, venerable Pakistani mountaineer Nazir Sabir shook the ground in his own way, by accusing the K2 Nepali summiters of removing the fixed ropes from the Bottleneck and thus contributing to the tragic loss of Ali Sadpara, John Snorri, and JP Mohr.

The Northerner Blog (which posted Sabir’s accusation) told ExplorersWeb that Sabir “is categorically saying that Sherpas took back every rope from the Bottleneck and upper sections, and only Ali Sadpara would have been able to re-fix them since Snorri’s hands were frostbitten and JP Mohr wasn’t such an experienced climber.”

Although Sabir is a respected figure in Pakistan, his controversial remarks seem to stoke discord without any evidence. Neither the Nepali summiters nor leader Chhang Dawa Sherpa ever mentioned anything of the kind. Descending in the dark, exhausted, why would any of them have wasted a single minute to disengage the ropes? They just wanted to get down as quickly as possible. Even Sajid Sadpara has not mentioned any missing ropes. Nevertheless, the loss of Ali Sadpara has created shock waves throughout the country, and emotions are running high.

Meanwhile, Chhang Dawa and the Seven Summit Trek climbers reached Skardu and quickly transferred to the Islamabad airport and back home.

Tamara Lunger tries to find some peace of mind during the trek back to Skardu. Photo: Tamara Lunger

Bitter memories

Back in Colorado, Jon Kedrowski recounts yet a third version of Atanas Skatov’s tragic accident. “Atanas fell to his death just below Camp 3 in the Black Pyramid [when] he was rappeling down a section with Lhakpa Dendi,” Kedrowski wrote on his blog. “Dendi filmed Atanas descend a section, then he panned the camera away to show the view toward Base Camp. When he turned the camera off and looked back down to his left, Atanas was gone. He fell all the way down for 6,000’.”

Kedrowski reported that Skatov hurtled down the steep, icy slopes all the way to a spot near ABC. He ended up not far from where Sergi Mingote came to rest after his own fatal fall on January 16. “There’s no way [Atanas] could have survived that fall,” Kedrowski said.

They then had to break the sad news to Skatov’s fiancee, who waited in Base Camp for him. Her excruciating pain left Kedrowski deeply shocked. “I can’t describe the pain, sorrow, and difficulty she was facing. For me, it was sad and scary too…At any time, these mountains could turn me into that, a dead man, gone forever. I thought of my loved ones back home, the people that cared about me the most. I vowed to never let them feel what Sheny was feeling. It was indescribable.”

Soon after, there followed the shocking news about the three men who disappeared on their way to the summit.

That search operation, we should add, is not over: The Pakistan Military have tasked a Lockheed C-130E Hercules to conduct a FLIR (Forward Looking Infrared Radar) mission that started yesterday. The ground search also continues. Forecasts show good weather on Monday, which will help on the search.

A Lockheed C-130E Hercules from the Pakistan Air Force continues to search K2 for the three climbers missing since February 5. Photo: Airliners.net