K2 Priorities: Summits and the Missing Climbers

Yesterday, just before the summit wave on K2 began, Sherpa rope fixers found the bodies of Ali Sadpara, John Snorri, and Juan Pablo Mohr, who went missing last winter.

Since the news broke, emotions have run high. Some immediately blamed the media for reporting an item of public interest. The search for these three fallen climbers was the largest and longest in K2’s history. Others tried to grab their 15 minutes of dubious fame by making up facts and posting misplaced images. Some even shared photos of the pitiful corpse known as Green Boots, lying at 8,500m on Everest’s North Side. They claimed that it showed one of the deceased climbers on K2. In fact, it was Tsewang Paljor of India, who died in 1996.

Wild speculations

Others have used rumored details (which have not been publicly shared) to speculate about the cause of death, the time, and most importantly, whether the trio had summited or not.

A strong trend in Pakistan was to ask other climbers (at least those from Pakistan) to cancel their summit pushes and instead, collaborate to recover the bodies. They argued that many Pakistani climbers claimed that their motivation was the legacy of Ali Sadpara. They should now honor that legacy, they went on, instead of selfishly going for the summit. Critics also appeared when Elia Saikaly asked for spare oxygen in order to be able to retrieve the bodies.

Map of the Abruzzi Route, showing the site of the findings. Photo: Team Ali Sadpara on Twitter


What we have reported so far has been publicly shared by direct sources. This includes climbers and expedition leaders currently on K2 and directly involved with the findings. Garrett Madison — currently on his way to the summit — confirmed his Sherpa team’s initial discovery. John Snorri’s home team confirmed the color of the down suit that he wore when he disappeared. JP Mohr’s cousin, Federico Scheuch, also issued official updates on Instagram, and Base Camp outfitter Asghar Ali Porik shared details as well.

Can Pakistan execute the world’s highest sling operation?

Scheuch stated that they wanted to retrieve Juan Pablo Mohr’s remains if possible, although he assumed that they were too high for helicopters.

“We must assume that most teams’ priority is the summit and not the [retrieval], but we are also aware that Pakistan’s people want to bring Ali Sadpara down and we will join that effort,” he said.

Ali Porik of Jasmine Tours, who runs the Base Camp logistics for Sajid Sadpara’s expedition, agrees that bringing the bodies down will be a major challenge. But he hasn’t dismissed the possibility that helicopters could help.

“It needs lots of manpower, hard work and if possible, Pakistan army air support [to bring off] the world’s highest sling operations,” he said.

The route through the Bottleneck. Photo: Team Ali Sadpara on Twitter


In Base Camp, a group of friends of the deceased climbers, including Tamara Lunger, held a ceremony last weekend at the Gilkey Memorial and could possibly help. And some climbers, shaken by recent events to abandon their attempts on K2, including Oswald Rodrigo Pereira and Carlos Garranzo, have decided to remain in BC as long as other climbers are up there. They are ready to pitch in if anyone gets into trouble.

Sajid Sadpara, the only survivor of that doomed summit push on February 5, and the son of one of the deceased, Ali Sadpara, was very close to the site when Sherpas found his father’s remains. Supporting him are Pasang Kaji and Elia Saikaly, who is filming a documentary entitled The Calling.

Sajid Sadpara. Photo: Elia Saikaly


Sajid back to the Bottleneck

Saikaly continues to text via InReach. This morning, he wrote, “we are leaving Camp 4 with Sajid to climb the Bottleneck, where he will meet his father. I need to confirm 100 percent where my friend John Snorri is and what happened up there. Theories are coming together.”

Whiteout conditions postponed their departure. According to the latest news, they were preparing to set off at 11:30 pm last night. With this timing, they will surely meet some climbers on their way to the summit. Some, such as Niels Jespers and Hugo Ayaviri — both climbing without O2 — are setting off from Camp 4. Others, including  Madison Mountaineering’s clients, are relying on oxygen but are starting lower down. They spent today resting at Camp 3.