Rakaposhi: Climbers Rescued Despite Close Call at 6,200m

Climbing Karakorum
The rescued climbers, safely off the mountain. Photo: Karrar Haidri

The drama on Rakaposhi has ended. This morning, the stranded climbers were airlifted from the mountain. It has been an amazing rescue effort, and the Pakistani helicopter pilots deserve a great deal of praise.

The rescue team included eight Pakistani climbers, an army crew, and five pilots. Gilgit-Baltistan’s minister of tourism (and minister of finance!) was also there, supervising. The entire operation required more than ten helicopter flights.

The rescued climbers pose with authorities and one of the rescue helicopters. Photo: Karrar Haidr

Karim Shah Nizari has provided a detailed overview of the rescue operation for ExplorersWeb.

Panic at 6,200 meters

The final stage of the rescue used just one helicopter, as the second machine diverted to another emergency near Skardu.

The stranded climbers didn’t have to descend any further today. Instead, the helicopter managed to reach 6,200m, where the climbers had spent the night. The helicopter hovered, just barely touching the mountain, so that two of the three climbers could board.

The high-risk maneuver required that only two climbers jump in, as that is its weight limit at such an extreme altitude. The helicopter touched down, allowing Wajidullah Nagri and Jakub Vlcek to enter. The pilots prepared to pull away from the mountain and told Peter Macek to wait for a second flight.

“First, he nodded, and the helicopter started to rise,” Karim said. But then Macek changed his mind.

In a panic, the Czech climber tried to jump aboard. He ended up hanging from the helicopter’s skid. “The helicopter unbalanced but the pilots somehow managed to stabilize and lower the machine down again,” Nizari said. “His mates in the cabin had to push him back down and then they took off again.”

“It’s the most stupid thing to do at 6,200m,” Nizari said. “He endangered everyone’s lives, the pilots, and his mates.”

Fortunately, the story ends happily. Macek was airlifted off the mountain in a second flight, and the pilots are back on the ground, ready for their next mission.

The ground rescue team

In the end, the ground team did not need to be deployed on the mountain. However, they played an essential role over the last two days, encouraging, motivating, and cajoling the climbers to move lower and save their lives.

“They managed to motivate climbers who were allegedly unable to take a single step, after days stranded, into moving and descending from 6,900m to 6,200m,” Karim Shah Nizari posted on Twitter. Their mere presence in Base Camp seems to have been a psychological boost.

In addition, international climbers provided information about navigating Rakaposhi’s southwest ridge, the route followed by the stranded climbers.

The rescue team, left to right: Karim Hayat, Wahab, Abdul Joshi, and Sajid Sadpara. Photo: Karim Shah Nizari

The climbers’ health is better than expected. According to preliminary reports, at least one of the climbers sustained minor frostbite. Otherwise, they all seem fine.

The rescue is over, but the administrative mess with local authorities and insurance companies has just started. The climbers headed up the mountain without a climbing permit. According to Pakistan Alpine Club secretary Karrar Haidri, the country’s Department of Tourism is working on the issue.

At least, the three of them are alive to deal with the bureaucratic fallout.

+6

About the Author

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides

Senior journalist, published author and communication consultant. Specialized on high-altitude mountaineering, with an interest for everything around the mountains: from economics to geopolitics. After five years exploring distant professional ranges, I returned to ExWeb BC in 2018. Feeling right at home since then!

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
20 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Marie
Marie
2 months ago

Fabulous. I think that the names of the helicopter pilots and crew members should also be published.

+6
Marie
Marie
2 months ago
Reply to  Marie

Here is a picture with the pilots, source: Carlos Garranzo @ Twitter.

+4
510E66A9-1E2C-46DB-AB13-E4DA9A9899F6.jpeg
Rodrigo
Rodrigo
2 months ago

The rescue team some real heroes

+7
jmaf
jmaf
2 months ago

Happy they are healthy but seems crazy that climbers with nothing more than minor frostbite should risk the lives of pilots and crews and commit so many people and resources to a rescue. If you have a plan to go up, you should also have a plan to come down that doesn’t include air rescue.

+14
Victor
Victor
2 months ago
Reply to  jmaf

I wonder if their real problems are about to begin…

0
Don Paul
Don Paul
2 months ago
Reply to  Victor

Maybe some jail time so they can think about how to pay the helicopter costs. I doubt they had insurance if they didn’t have a permit.

+1
Updates
Updates
2 months ago

In the new headliner photo it looks like Peter has frostbite on some fingertips. So, I find it odd Peter was 2nd helicopter pick up, if he was the only injured climber.

0
Mimim
Mimim
2 months ago
Reply to  Updates

The person in the first photo (with frostbite) is Lukas.

0
Updates
Updates
2 months ago
Reply to  Mimim

Oh, then name not right on photo description.

0
Marie
Marie
2 months ago
Reply to  Mimim

The man in blue on the first photo seems to be Jakub Vlček.

0
Tomas
Tomas
2 months ago

Here is the statetment from Czech climbers. Pakistani news wrote nonsens about it. Please use Google translator.

https://www.seznamzpravy.cz/clanek/nam-nic-neni-nejhur-dopadl-pakistanec-rika-cesky-horolezec-o-zachrane-174702

+3
damiengildea
Editor
2 months ago
Reply to  Tomas

Thanks for posting this. It presents the whole situation in a very different light.

And not a good one, for the media and mountaineers of Pakistan.

+2
Sheikh
Sheikh
1 month ago
Reply to  damiengildea

Yeah. Today’s not the day when I would trust the word of criminals over the word of their selfless rescuers. They were climbing illegally, what makes you think they are telling the truth now? How many other incidents do you have where rescuers risked their own lives and resources for someone who did not ask for it or needed it. This is desperate nonsense from those two climbers. Pathetic really.

0
Marie
Marie
2 months ago
Reply to  Tomas

Even if this was true, I find it really inappropriate to publicly expose other people, especially a fellow climber.

+5
Marie
Marie
2 months ago
Reply to  Marie

And before they rescued the Czechs for free (at that stage), thereby risking their own lives, the pilots dropped too many cookies of the wrong flavour to them. Shame on them. (“Irony off” just to make sure.)

+4
Jahan
Jahan
2 months ago
Reply to  Marie

How dare they (Pakistan army pilots) drop the wrong flavored cookies to the stranded climbers? Now this is totally unacceptable. No trained pilot would ever do that…I mean, dont they teach these things during their training. I request the Czech ambassador to Pakistan to take it up with the Pakistan government and army.

+2
Lenore Jones
Lenore Jones
2 months ago
Reply to  Marie

Well, but remember it’s Google translate. That may not be accurate.

0
Michal
Michal
2 months ago
Reply to  Lenore Jones

Nope. In Czech this sounds totally inappropriate as in English.

+1
J ham
J ham
2 months ago
Reply to  Tomas

Pretty clear from the comments and tone provided by the spokesperson that the messaging was biased. Not sure where the truth lies but there’s a huge gap.

+1
Martin Liska
Martin Liska
2 months ago

Where Is the truth? Abdul Joshi describes the rescue in his facebook post and writes, that the climbers were rescued via long line method…

+2
×