K2: Skatov Confirmed Dead; Snorri Nears Summit

Bulgaria climber Atanas Skatov has been confirmed dead. Sources in Pakistan told ExplorersWeb that Skatov fell to his death and came to rest in an inaccessible place near Camp 2. A rescue helicopter has taken his remains, together with Skatov’s fiancee, who was in Base Camp, back to Skardu.

Dawa Sherpa says that Skatov fell near the Japanese Camp 3. “He was climbing with his Sherpa and went a few metres ahead,” Dawa said. “While changing from one rope to the other, [it] seems some errors occurred and he fell. We had fixed the mountain with new ropes and [the rope didn’t break],” the Seven Summit Treks leader insisted, to neutralize the initial rumor that the breakage of an old fixed line caused Skatov’s fatal accident.

Increasing the tension on K2, there has still been no news from the four remaining climbers heading for the summit. John Snorri, Ali Sadpara, Sajid Sadpara, and Juan Pablo Mohr left from 7,300m some 16 hours ago and are the only ones still going up rather than down. Earlier, the cook at Base Camp, who has radio contact with Snorri,  said they were at about 8,300m. Snorri has promised to notify his wife when he reached the summit. “We have the strong believe that they will summit soon,” she has just said.

They are in a race against time because winds are expected to increase in the next few hours. High-altitude meteorologist Karl Gabl has predicted that today, February 5, will still feature good weather, but he notes that the summit will be a bone-chilling -45ºC, and that the jet stream will soon begin to dip down and rake the mountain. The four men will no doubt feel the cold even more acutely because of lack of sleep.

The only good news is that some of the descending climbers will reach Base Camp soon. Colin O’Brady’s tracker locates him in Advanced Base Camp.

The climbers’ trackers have caused a great deal of alarm and confusion since yesterday when they started sending weird signals near Camp 3. Racetracker experts, who have worked with K2 climbers for years, told ExplorersWeb that such incoherent signals are common when climbers try to keep the devices warm inside their down suits. The signal corruption is worse in bad weather, they add, and that the problems usually start around the Shoulder of K2, when temperatures drop noticeably. Colin O’Brady’s device seems to be the only one that has worked properly, so it is likely that he has kept his bulky Garmin Explorer outside, hanging from his suit or backpack.