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

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.