Developing Timeline: What Happened to the Mountaineers Lost on Pobeda

In the past week, three mountaineers have perished on Pobeda Peak in Kyrgyzstan. We have previously reported about Mehri Jafari’s disappearance, as well as the separate incidents with Reza Adineh and Valentin Mikhailov.

In the previous days, information about the three alpinists and the circumstances surrounding their deaths has been piecemeal at best. As is often the case, more information trickles out and eyewitness reports surface in the aftermath of the tragedies. And with newer information comes some clarity. In an effort to better understand the recent events on Pobeda Peak, we’ve patched together the timeline below.

We would like all readers to note that the following account may change in the coming days as newer intel comes to light. This is our attempt to present the best information, from several sources.

Pobeda (Victory) Peak is the highest mountain in the Tien Shan and is also known by its Kyrgyz name, Jengish Chokusu. The peak, which is the world’s northernmost 7,000’er, is notoriously dangerous and rarely explored due to the risk involved.

mehri jafari

Mehri Jafari. Photo: @mehri.jafari.ii/Instagram

Key Persons

  • Persons Missing on Pobeda
    • Mehri Jafari, UK-based Iranian human rights attorney and mountaineer. Perished on August 4.
    • Reza Adineh, Iranian mountaineer. Perished on August 7.
    • Valentin Mikhailov, Russian mountaineer. Perished on August 8.
  • Iranian contingent
    • Saeid Mirzaie, self-proclaimed professional alpinist and supposed leader of the Iranian contingent.
    • Samad Babazaden Anari
    • Bayazit Nikbakht
  • Hungarian contingent
    • Albert Kovacs, Hungarian mountaineer, and member of Snow Leopard Expedition Series. Witnessed Jafari’s fall from C4. Co-leader of the volunteer rescue team.
    • Peter Vitez, Hungarian mountaineer and member of Snow Leopard Expedition Series. Co-leader of the volunteer rescue team.
  • Other Key Persons
    • Alex Stone, a friend of Jafari’s and fellow mountaineer. Co-leader of the volunteer rescue team.
    • Dmitry Grekov, Base Camp radio operator.
 Climbers pass a crevasse on Pobeda Peak. Photo: Albert Kovacs

Climbers pass a crevasse on Pobeda Peak. Photo: Albert Kovacs

Timeline of Events

July 22

  • Jafari, having attempted a solo trek from the South Inylchek BC to Camp 1 in the days prior, posts to her Instagram account.
    In it, she states that another group of Iranian climbers is expected to arrive at BC soon. It seems that she intends to join the Iranian team when they make their attempt up the mountain.

August 1-3

  • The Iranian contingent including Jafari, Adineh, Mirzaie, Babazaden Anari, and Nikbakht, leaves South Inylchek BC and begins the push toward Pobeda’s summit.

August 4

  • Somewhere between Camp 4 (6,400m) and Camp 5 (6,900m), Jafari begins a solo descent to Camp 4 or Camp 3.
    It is believed that Jafari had struggled to keep pace with the rest of the Iranian team and was nursing an injury to her hand.
  • Around 16:00, Jafari falls from 6,300m to the Diky Glacier.
  • Hungarian climbers Albert Kovacs and Peter Vitez witness Jafari fall from a spot ~100m away.
  • Kovacs promptly alerts BC of the incident via satellite phone.
  • The BC operator radios the Iranian team, which confirms that Jafari is no longer with them.
    BC orders the team to turn around and search for Jafari.
    It’s believed that the Iranian team ignored this call from BC and turned off their radio for the remainder of Aug 4.

August 5

  • At 8 am, the Iranian contingent radios BC.
    They report that Jafari is missing.
    Again, the radio operator orders the team to turn around and search for Jafari.
    Again, the team ignores the call and turns the radio off. Their radio remains off for the rest of the expedition.
  • Sometime in the morning, Ak-Sai Travel, the outfitter that arranged Jafari’s accommodations, receives permission to arrange a helicopter search for Jafari.
  • A Kyrgyz search helicopter is dispatched but unable to locate Jafari. Conditions and the sheer size of the helicopter prevent a closer, detailed effort.
  • At 12 pm, from a height of 6,600m, a Ukrainian team sees the four Iranians continue pushing up the peak.
  • At 4 pm, the Ukrainian team, now proximal to Vazha Pshevella (7,000m), confirms the Iranians’ forward movement along the ridgeline, toward Pobeda’s summit.

August 6

  • The Iranian team is sighted near Camp 6, at 7,100m.
  • A third search and rescue effort is led by Kovacs, Vitez, and Alex Stone. The team arrives via helicopter at the site of Jafari’s presumed location.
    There they search for signs of Jafari on foot and document their effort. They are unable to locate Jafari, likely due to recent icefall or avalanches.
  • On returning to safety, Kovacs stated,
    “We were in an avalanche area, under a 3,000m high wall. We were scared shitless the whole time…The glacier was constantly breaking under our feet, only the rope held us. But we did more than the entire Kyrgyz organization and the Iranian team that is sunbathing on the base. We arrived late. If they had come up for her the [previous] day, they would have been able to find her. Now she is buried under the avalanche.”

August 7

  • A second Iranian climber, Reza Adineh, goes missing. Adineh’s fall is witnessed and reported by Israeli and Ukrainian climbers.
  • In an effort to locate Adineh, the Israeli/Ukrainian team descends 60m from their location to the Chinese side of Pobeda.
    They see Adineh’s fall path, a 100m-long trail down a steep slope and over the edge of a cliff below.
    The Israeli/Ukrainian team deem Adineh’s fall absolutely fatal.
  • The three surviving Iranians — Mirzaie, Babazaden, and Nikbakht — continue their push to the summit. Their radio remains off.
  • At 2 pm, the three Iranians reach the top of Pobeda and begin their descent to BC.

August 8

  • A separate team of mountaineers from Russia calls for help from 7,000m up on Pobeda.
    A rescue team is dispatched.
  • During the rescue efforts, a massive cornice collapses beneath Russian Valentin Mikhailov.
    Eyewitnesses confirm Mikhailov’s death.

August 9

  • Mirzaie, Babazaden, and Nikbakht arrive back at BC.

At the time of writing, efforts to recover those lost on Pobeda this week have largely come to a halt. Sources indicate that authorities will or already have begun collecting eyewitness reports and testimonies surrounding the tragic events. No additional information is available at this time.

On August 11, Jafari’s family and friends issued this statement via Facebook:


statement by jafari friends

The statement posted by friends of Mehri Jafari’s Facebook account on Aug. 11


ExplorersWeb will continue to publish further developments, should any come to our attention. Our thoughts are with those closest to Mehri Jafari, Reza Adineh, and Valentin Mikhailov at this time.

We would like to credit mountaineering journalists @KrisAnnapurna and Laszlo Pinter for their dedication and highly detailed reporting, which has given great clarity to the events discussed here.

*Correction, 8/12: it was previously reported that the Ukrainian/Israeli team that witnessed Adineh’s fatal fall on Aug 7 was climbing on a neighboring peak. Reader Pawel has brought it to our attention that the team was likely climbing the same ridgeline on Pobeda as the Iranian contingent.