Nanga Parbat: Descend or Die

Find a way to descend or die. Unless there is a miracle, that is now the only choice for Asif Bhatti of Pakistan and Israfil Ashurli of Azerbaijan. This morning, the pair were still in Camp 3 on Nanga Parbat.

The weather has turned from bad to worse, preventing helicopters from flying, let alone performing long-line rescue operations. The ground team who left Base Camp yesterday stopped at Camp 1 and is unlikely to move any higher in the short term.

“The two volunteer climbers who went for the upper slopes of Nanga Parbat last night couldn’t go any further than Camp 1 because of rockfall which started on the mountain last night,” The Karakorum Club wrote.

Naila Kiani, coordinating rescue efforts, left Base Camp yesterday evening but is still in contact with the climbers in Camp 3 via SMS, her mentor Samson S. Saraf told ExplorersWeb. Saraf says that Ashurli is trying to persuade Bhatti to descend to Camp 2, but Bhatti may have some “limitations.” (They mentioned frostbitten hands.)

Meanwhile, a member of Ashurli’s home team told ExplorersWeb that the pair will try to reach Camp 2 today. “Yesterday he [Ashurli] couldn’t drag the Pakistani climber to Camp 2 because of bad weather, they had to spend all day in Camp 3,” Ashurli’s home team member Sergey Kofanov said. “Today [Ashurli] is trying to reach Camp 2 and hoping that the helicopter will be able to pick up them from there.”

More stranded climbers?

To make matters worse, there might be other climbers still on the mountain. Ali Olszanski of Poland said there are members of a Polish team high on the mountain with frostbite. A Polish team pushed for Nanga Parbat’s summit on Sunday. At least Piotr Krzyzowski, Pawel Kopec, and Waldemar Kowalewski reached the top at various times, rather late in the day. On descent, Kopec fell sick with AMS and died that night. The others may have made it back to Base Camp but we have been unable to confirm their number and whereabouts.

Yesterday, Mario Vielmo and Nicola Bonaiti made it back to Base Camp at 3 am. By SMS, Vielmo told his wife that the climb and descent had been extremely tough. The fixed ropes were iced up and useless. He also noted that Tarcisio Bello was in Camp 2, while Valerio Annovazzi and Argentinean Juan Pablo Toro (who summited with Vielmo on Monday) wanted to rest in Camp 3. You can read the messages (in Italian) here.

Most, if not all, of the climbers who are still on the mountain use no supplementary O2, and presumably they have no masks and bottles at hand.

Close hsot of Vielmo with sunglasses and helmet, clipped to a vertical fixed rope.

Mario Vielmo on Nanga Parbat some days ago. Photo: Mario Vielmo

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides graduated university in journalism and specializes in high-altitude mountaineering and expedition news. She has been writing about climbing and mountaineering, adventure and outdoor sports for 20+ years.

Prior to that, Angela Benavides spent time at/worked at a number of local and international media. She is also experienced in outdoor-sport consultancy for sponsoring corporations, press manager and communication executive, and a published author.