K2: Looking for Answers

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.