Developing Timeline: What Happened to the Mountaineers Lost on Pobeda

Alpine style Climbing
The Iranian-Russian team arrives at Base Camp. Photo: Albert Kovacs

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. 

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About the Author

Jilli Cluff

Jilli Cluff

Jilli grew up in the rural southern Colorado mountains, later moving to Texas for college.
After seven years in corporate consulting, she was introduced to sport climbing. In 2020, Jilli left her corporate position to pursue an outdoor-oriented life.
She now works as a contributor, an editor, and a gear tester for ExplorersWeb and various other outlets within the AllGear network.
She is based out of Austin, Texas where she takes up residence with her climbing gear and one-eared blue heeler, George Michael.

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MuddyBoots
MuddyBoots
3 months ago

What a sad situation, both the loss of life, and the callous behavior of some. As well as the heroic and selfless efforts by Kovac and Vitez, and perhaps others who were not even on the teams of the climbers they tried to help. It sounds like Jafari was not really part of the team from Iran, it just happened that they speak the same language and met up at base camp.

+7
MuddyBoots
MuddyBoots
3 months ago

Thank you Jilli Cluff, for this very clear report on a very confused situation. Putting the cast of characters up front, and writing this as a timeline makes this much easier to understand.

+4
Pawel
Pawel
3 months ago

Hi Jilli, thank you for details, very helpful.
Just one correction: the Ukrainian Team that was informing about the movements of Iranian Team was climbing on the same route with them. Normal route (the easieast) to Peak Pobieda leads by Vazha Pshavela (6 918m). So the Ukrainian Team and Iranian Team were climbing close to each other on the same route, and most likely the same Ukrainian Team was witnessing the second Iranian climber’s fall to the Chinese side.

+5
Mojtaba
Mojtaba
3 months ago
Reply to  Pawel

Hi Pawel
Do you have any link that Ukrainian Team write their witness of falling reza adineh ? The Iranian team didn’t explain the details and everybody in Iran want to now how it happens in details.

+1
Marie
Marie
3 months ago
Reply to  Mojtaba

Here you have a first-hand account of two Ukrainian team members that witnessed it all. https://www.instagram.com/p/CShEH6zir8T/?hl=de

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brendan
brendan
3 months ago
Reply to  Mojtaba

Here is the written account by Andreii Vergeles on Facebook regarding the events. I also know other climbers who were there are it seems that there is even more to the story that has not been told.” here is the story of our ′′ Victory “… Many of the mountain hangouts have already heard about the dramatic events played on the slopes of the Peak of Victory with the participation of Iranian climbers. Alas, our team, without wanting it, has become a direct witness and participant of all those incidents…. • July 17th: We are climbing South Inylchek. The main… Read more »

Marie
Marie
3 months ago

Thank you so much for writing this article. These three climbers from Iran should never get a climbing permit again anywhere in the world and ought to be sued for failure to render assistance. Kudos to the brave rescuers and strength and peace to the friends and relatives of the deceased.

+2
Adnan Haider
Adnan Haider
3 months ago
Reply to  Marie

They were 4 actually. Then karma strikes. One of them fall as well. But their choice remains the same this time too. Turned a blind eye and move towards their own objective. Pathetic human beings. They should not be allowed in then mountains again.

+2
Marie
Marie
3 months ago
Reply to  Adnan Haider

I know I should not speculate but I have been thinking all day that maybe Reza took his own life after all that happened. In the video where he helps to bring the deceased climber down, you hear him weeping in the background. When the leader of your team decides to move on, you endanger your own life by “disobeying” and climbing back down alone, so maybe things are not as black-and-white regarding the other “team” members. May Reza rest in peace as well. What really strikes me as disgusting is that they abandoned Mehri high on the mountain, knowing… Read more »

Marie
Marie
3 months ago
Reply to  Jilli Cluff

Hi Jilli, you can find the video under the hashtags #rescuemehri and #rescuerezaadineh on Instagram. I would rather not include the direct link here as it contains sensitive images and might be considered offensive by some. From what I gather from the Persian description, it shows Reza conducting or participating in a mission where the body of a deceased climber is brought down the mountain by Russian-speaking men. I think it was just posted to show that Reza helped others and now seems to need help himself. It might be though that I misinterpret the Google translation of the description.… Read more »

Pawel
Pawel
3 months ago
Reply to  Jilli Cluff

Hi, this is the video, first published on 26th July, rescue mission on Khan Tengri. In description is written about “saving life” and the casualty has not covered face so I guess that is alive. Don’t know who it is, when and what happens.
https://www.instagram.com/p/CRya47cgLYT/?utm_medium=copy_link

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Mojtaba
Mojtaba
3 months ago
Reply to  Pawel

Hi Pawel
The video is about a Iranian climber Rescued by Ali Soleimani and Reza Adineh at 6000 meters high Khan Tengri peak two weeks ago.
Reza, had gone to Khan Tengri to get used to the mountain air before he climbed to pobeda-peak, did not pass by this companion indifferently and help him, whose his lung got a problem. They rescue him from camp3 to camp 1 and after that he went down the mountain by his legs.

+1
Last edited 3 months ago by Mojtaba
Marie
Marie
3 months ago
Reply to  Mojtaba

Thank you so much for this clarification.

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Bob
Bob
3 months ago
Reply to  Marie

I am not a climber. I do hike and ski in the mountains. I’ve done alpine climbing and ski mountaineering. My feeling is that what the Iranian climbers did is not right. However, if you are not a climber you have not earned the right to comment on with the Iranian climbers did. Marie, are you a climber?

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Marie
Marie
3 months ago
Reply to  Bob

The climbers from Iran abandoned a woman – one that was clearly no longer able to safely get down alone – on a high mountain, thereby risking (and contributing to!) her untimely death, and turned their radio off when the basecamp manager ordered them to look for her. I do not know why one has to be a climber to “earn the right” to judge them for that. If you batter your wife or child, do I have to be married or a parent to be in a position to state that that’s generally not okay?

+2
matc
matc
2 months ago
Reply to  Marie

Woman was not from their team, She wanted to climb solo, failed, hurt herself. Several mountaineers told her not to do that, including the doc she saw for her injury. She went back to base camp and later joined herself to these Iranians.
Then she was unable to follow them…
All she had to do was turn back before it was too late. She failed.

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J ham
J ham
3 months ago
Reply to  Marie

You have brought up a couple times now that the Iranians should be sued. I find this puzzling. Could you please elaborate on their legal obligation and even their capability to provide aid? I’m by no means condoning their actions nor downplaying the tragedy on the mountain but your views seem to be overly dramaticized and ignore the inherent risks that are taken with mountaineering.

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Marie
Marie
3 months ago
Reply to  J ham

The basecamp manager ordered the Iranians via radio to turn around and search for Mehri. Then they just turned the radio off and climbed on. The Ukrainians went up to their tent and told them what the basecamp manager said, and they simply refused to look for Mehri. This conversation was recorded by the Ukrainians. When Reza slid down the slope, the Ukrainians offered them their 60 meters rope for them to look over the edge and find out what happened to their team member Reza. At that stage it was not yet clear that he had fallen to his… Read more »

Apy
Apy
3 months ago

Thank you for this clear timeline. But just a point of detail. Alex Stone did not fly from the UK specially to look for Mehri. He was already there on an expedition to climb three peaks Pobeda, Lenin and Khan Tengri. He has reported at length on his social media on his attempt to locate Mehri and also what he believes happened.

+3
Coward Climber
Coward Climber
3 months ago

“Saeid Mirzaie, self-proclaimed professional alpinist” – this pretty much explains the attitude of these circus clowns from Iran. What a tragedy.

+2
Pawel
Pawel
3 months ago
Reply to  Coward Climber

I will rather change the description from “self-proclaimed professional alpinist” to “SELFISH professional alpinist”…

+3
ZLF
ZLF
3 months ago

The Grim Reapers on High Asia (7000ers and 8000ers, fatalities 2010-2021)

88 Everest
25 Manaslu
20 Dhaulagiri
17 Nanga Parbat
13 K2
11 Broad Peak
11 Makalu
09 Gurja Himal
09 Pik Pobeda
08 Gasherbrum I
08 Kangchenjunga
08 Lhotse
07 Shishapangma
06 Annapurna
05 Cho Oyu
05 Himlung Himal
04 Khan Tengri
03 Baruntse
03 Pik Lenin
03 Thulagi
03 Yalung Kang
02 Gasherbrum II
02 Muztagh Ata
02 Nuptse
01 Chamlang
01 Gasherbrum IV
01 Labuche Kang I
01 Latok I
01 Nun
01 Pik Communism
01 Pik Korzhenevskaya
01 Trisul

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Pawel
Pawel
3 months ago
Reply to  ZLF

Just numbers, without the rate of people that attempt summit and summited it says nothing.
For example in the entire Mont Blanc range the dead toll is estimated for about 100 every year!!!
It includes skiers, climbers, hikers etc, it is very high because many people go there.

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ZLF
ZLF
3 months ago
Reply to  Pawel

Not just numbers, but I have also these stats you mentined (success/fatality and attempts/fatality). Thanks for the comment, anyhow

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ZLF
ZLF
3 months ago
Reply to  Jilli Cluff

no, Jilli, I compile myself, thanks for the comment

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Apy
Apy
3 months ago
Reply to  ZLF

Grim statistics indeed. Are you sure of your stats for the “Snow Leopards” ? They look pretty low in view of their reputation…

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ZLF
ZLF
3 months ago
Reply to  Apy

Apy: well noted. They are from 2010 to 2021, not the entire story – Pik Lenin, on all times, has more than 60 fatalities

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Pawel
Pawel
3 months ago
Reply to  ZLF

True, here is nice article about one of the tragedies on Peak Lenin in 1974:
https://edition.cnn.com/interactive/2020/01/sport/russian-climbers-peak-lenin-spt-intl/

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