K2: The Fallen Five

Despite the successful first winter summit of K2 earlier in the season, the Savage Mountain has lived up to its foreboding reputation with the deaths of Sergi Mingote and Atanas Skatov, and the disappearance of Ali Sadpara, John Snorri, and JP Mohr.

For their chance at few fleeting moments atop the second highest mountain in the world, all five have paid the ultimate price. The whys and hows will be unpacked in the coming weeks, but for now, let’s simply learn a little more about these five people.

Sergi Mingote

Photo: Ajuntament de Parets del Vallès


The Spaniard was the first to perish this season, after falling down an ice ramp while descending from Camp 1 on January 16. He was 49.

Mingote was vastly experienced in the Greater Ranges and had climbed seven 8,000m peaks without supplemental oxygen during 2018-2019: Manaslu, K2, Broad Peak, Nanga Parbat, Lhotse, Gasherbrum II, and Dhaulagiri. He also summited Everest in 2001 and 2003.

K2 was part of the Spaniard’s quest for the fastest oxygen-less summit of all 14 8,000’ers, dubbed the “14×1000 Catalonia Project. Why 1,000? Mingote had wanted to tick off the remaining seven mountains within 1,000 days, but the pandemic derailed his efforts.

Outside of the mountains, Mingote was an adventuring renaissance man who had also completed Ironman and Ultraman triathlons, swum the Strait of Gibraltar, crossed the Sahara and Gobi deserts, and cycled 7,000km across Europe on a peak-bagging trip in 2020.

it doesn’t stop there. Mingote was previously mayor of a town in Catalonia, held a
a Master’s degree in International Cooperation and Management, and served as the president of the Onat Foundation for social inclusion through sport.

Atanas Skatov


Photo: Anadolu Agency

The ever-smiling Bulgarian took a fatal fall near Camp 3 on February 5. He was 42 and a father of one son.

Like Mingote, Skatov was a man of many talents. He dedicated his early life to academia, earning a Bachelor’s, Masters and PhD degrees. His doctoral studies focused on agricultural science.

It wasn’t until 2010, aged 32, that Skatov first hit the mountains, when he trekked Bulgaria’s longest mountain trail. After completing the same trail twice more, Skatov hit the high mountains without any real training or experience. Remarkably, he racked up 11 8,000m summits: Manalsu, Annapurna I, Dhaulagiri, Makalu, Gasherbrum I and II,Lhotse, Everest (twice), Cho Oyu, and Kangchenjunga.

Despite a somewhat tenuous claim of being the first Vegan to climb the various 8,000’ers, Skatov was undoubtedly highly motivated and talented. He completed three of his 8,000m summits without Sherpa support (Cho Oyu and Gasherburm I and II) and did a number of others alpine-style and in quick succession. For example, in 2016 after knocking off Annapurna I and getting high on Dhaulagiri, the Bulgarian rapidly summited Makalu, after only a single day at Base Camp (and 94 hours on the mountain in total).

Skatov had also completed the Seven Summits and climbed Denali solo and alpine-style.

Ali Sadpara


Photo: Alex Txikon

Arguably the most revered and well-known of the five, we must emphasize that his status and that of his two companions is still just missing. Only last week he celebrated his 46th birthday at Base Camp. Sajid, 22, is his only son. His wife’s name is Fatima.

Although he was officially employed by John Snorri as a “high-altitude porter,” Ali Sadpara is actually one of the strongest high-altitude climbers in the world. But the high mountains haven’t been the Pakistani’s first challenge in life: Eight of his 11 siblings died during birth/childhood. This was not an uncommon occurrence in his home village of Sadpara in northern Pakistan, where many children succumb to disease. Such was the impact of these deaths on his mother Fiza, that she breastfed Sadpara until age six to ensure that he had the best nutrition and best chance of survival.

After a childhood spent exploring the local alpine pastures, Sadpara started low-level portering work, toting heavy loads to Base Camps at K2, Broad Peak, and the Gasherbrums. But after a near-death experience portering for the Pakistani Army in the conflict zone (with India) on the Siachen Glacier, Sadpara changed his focus to high-altitude work.

Between 2006 and 2015, Sadpara climbed Gasherburm II, Spatnik, Nanga Parbat (twice), and Gasherbrum I. In 2015, Sadpara made an unsuccessful attempt at Nanga Parbat in winter with Alex Txikon and Daniele Nardi. But a year later, he was part of the historic first winter ascent of that mountain with Txikon and Simone Moro. In total, Sadpara summited Nanga Parbat four times.

Further notable summits between 2016-2021 included Broad Peak, Pumori (first winter ascent), K2, Lhotse, Makalu, and Manaslu.

Alpinist magazine provided an accurate (and sad) assessment of Sadpara’s career in 2019. Hugely strong and talented, but always at the service of others:

For professional mountaineers climbing by some variation of “fair means,” it’s compromising to hire a high-altitude worker. Ali’s role was that of an unpaid “equal partner.” In practice, though, he often led the way; he earned the use of his gear through labor; and if the others quit, he was expected to quit, too.

Indeed on the day of that historic first winter summit of Nanga Parbat, Ali waited a few metres below the top for Moro to catch up so they could reach it together. Moro was, however, hugely pleased with Sadpara, later remarking that “Ali is to Nanga Parbat what Tenzing was to Everest.”

As Tenzing was to Nepalis, Ali Sadpara is a hero to many across Pakistan. It is ironic that 10 days ago, as Sadpara waited in Base Camp for the weather to clear for this fateful push, the Pakistani government finally committed to supporting his attempts to climb the rest of the 8,000m peaks, freeing him from servitude to others for the first time.

JP Mohr

Photo: Dario Rodriguez/Desnivel

The soft-spoken Chilean climber, currently missing with Ali Sadpara and John Snorri, is 33 years old and has three children.

Mohr began climbing at 17, before launching a career in architecture. His first trip to the high mountains was Annapurna in 2017, which he climbed alongside Sebastián Rojas, Alberto Zerain, and Jonathan García. They climbed a variant of the normal French route, which involved pitches of 70-degree ice.

Mohr went on to climb Manaslu in 2018 and in 2019, he made a rapid double-header of Lhotse and Everest without oxygen in just six days (a record). That autumn, Mohr also became the first Chilean to summit Dhaulagiri without oxygen or Sherpa support.

John Snorri


Photo: John Snorri

The missing Icelandic climber is 47 years old and has a wife, Lina, and six children.

Growing up in the countryside of southwest Iceland, Snorri has always been active in the outdoors. He later took up mountaineering as a way to test his physical limits and indulge his lifelong passion for nature.

Snorri started with Mont Blanc in 2011, before climbing Ama Dablam in 2015, Elbrus in 2016, and Lhotse, K2, and Broad Peak in 2017. Minor summits of the Matterhorn and other peaks in the European Alps followed, before he returned to the big mountains with a summit of Manaslu in 2019. Last winter, Snorri was part of Mingma G’s aborted attempt on Winter K2.

Although he was often a guided client, Snorri only started his climbing career on Mont Blanc a decade ago. Since then, he’s achieved a lot, culminating in this winter summit attempt on K2.