K2: Search Resumes at Dawn; Climbers Begin Telling Their Story

Some of Pakistan’s top politicians, including Prime Minister Imran Khan and Qamar Bajwa, the Army’s chief general, have taken a personal interest in the events on K2.  They have ensured that helicopters and more personnel will be deployed to Base Camp right at dawn, just a few hours from now, Ali Saltoro told ExplorersWeb.

The search began on Saturday with an aerial reconnaissance. Two experienced Pakistani climbers, Imtiaz Hussain and Akbar Ali, landed at Base Camp and started on foot for Camp 1. Here, they are spending the night before searching the Abruzzi Spur route.

In John Snorri’s base camp, photographer Elia Saikaly and assistant Pasang Kaji (aka PK) Sherpa are caring for a devastated Sajid Sadpara. Sajid is physically okay but is in shock after having to leave his father Ali missing on the upper slopes.

Saikaly arrived in Base Camp barely two weeks ago, intending to accompany Snorri and the Sadparas as far as he could and to film their attempt on K2. Two years earlier on Everest, Saikaly witnessed the infamous summit day when climbers lined up for hours at the Hillary step, waiting their turn to summit. Some perished on the way down after their oxygen ran out. Saikaly described that scene as “death, chaos, and carnage”. Now he finds himself entangled in another mountain nightmare.

Despite their lack of acclimatization, Saikaly and PK, on O2, followed Snorri and the Sadparas almost to Camp 3. “Here,” he says, with evident frustration, “we learned there was a serious miscommunication about the extra oxygen we had purchased which, unacclimatized as we were, was our lifeline, so we descended to Japanese Camp 3 and spent the night listening to the brutal radio communications of climbers sandwiched into tents at high Camp 3.”

Elia Saikaly, taking a “selfie on O2” yesterday high on K2. Photo: Elia Saikaly


Saikaly knew that in their unprepared state, they were in serious danger without enough oxygen, so in the morning they began to climb down. “While descending, a Bulgarian climber, Atanas, flew off K2 right over our heads and plummeted to his death,” said Saikaly. “I saw it all and yelled in horror.”

Saikaly says that all he can do now is pray that the three missing men have managed to hang on to life somehow. The helicopter pilots and the brave Balti climbers who will face winter K2 in seriously worsening weather hope the same, as they set out in a few hours to search for a miracle.