K2: Search Called Off

For the third day in a row, and despite tough conditions, Pakistani army pilots have searched K2’s slopes for any trace of missing climbers John Snorri, Ali Sadpara and Juan Pablo Mohr. Again, the search has been in vain. This time, the helicopters brought Lakpa Dendi Sherpa and Seven Summit Treks expedition leader Chhang Dawa Sherpa on their scouting flight. The search party reached about 7,000m and focused on several areas that Dawa pointed out. “We had less visibility and the upper mountain is covered in cloud,” Dawa wrote.

Pakistani Army Pilots have searched K2’s slopes for a third day. Photo: Chhang Dawa Sherpa

Currently, the helicopters are not expected to fly again, at least until weather conditions improve. Unfortunately, weather forecasts indicate that it could be some time before there is better visibility. Sources in Pakistan have said that Base camp may be dismantled tomorrow.

Still, in the morning today, two men refused to throw in the towel. Imtiaz and Akbar, neighbors and relatives of Ali Sadpara, were determined to continue up the mountain on foot. “Ali is a brother to us and a hero for Pakistan,” Imtiaz told Elia Saikaly. The two men, both experienced K2 climbers, had volunteered for the mission. They were willing to continue the search “for pride of blood and country,” as one commenter put it on social media. “They know the mountain better than anyone and tell us they’ll respect the mountain, the weather, and their limits,” Elia said.

Sadly, their attempt was indeed thwarted by the weather. For their own safety, they had no choice but to abort. K2 has already taken too many lives.

The rescue has gripped the public and the media in Pakistan, where Ali, Sajid and the rescuers are being hailed as national heroes. As with the Nepalis who achieved the first winter summit some weeks ago, the Sadparas have been catapulted into the national spotlight. As well as an outpouring of national pride, events have prompted criticism of many others that are involved. Some of this criticism has shocked those organizing the rescue efforts.

“Don’t use Ali to [jump on] the bandwagon and gain some notoriety,” Ali Sadpara’s spokesperson pleaded on Twitter. “This rescue operation has been planned and conducted by family, friends (those westerners some people are trashing) and the Pakistan army. ”

Indeed, the rescue efforts have been coordinated by the missing climbers’ families and friends, but have also involved Iceland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Pakistan Ambassador of Goodwill Vanessa O’Brien, Chhang Dawa Sherpa in Base Camp, Alex Gavan (at home after abandoning the expedition), and high-ranking political and military authorities in Pakistan. The rescue operation team was even in touch with Simone Moro, currently climbing winter Manaslu.

A final statement by all those involved is expected later today.