Despite harsh conditions, the search operation to locate three mountaineers, including Muhammad Ali Sadpara from Pakistan, John Snorri from Iceland and JP Mohr from Chile, resumed on Monday, severely limiting efforts.
According to Chhang Dawa Sherpa, who is part of the search and rescue operations, the search team is currently awaiting another window of opportunity to canvas the mountain.
Late on Friday, the three climbers lost contact with the base camp and were declared missing on Saturday after their support staff began getting messages from them while trying to scale the second-highest mountain in the world.
A host of experts are part of the rescue mission, including local high-altitude climbers Fazal Ali and Jalal from Shimshal, Imtiaz Hussain and Akbar Ali from Skardu, Alex Găvan from Romania, Nazir Sabir, Chhang Dawa Sherpa and other members of the SST winter expedition team.
Alpine Club secretary Karrar Haideri stated, speaking to Dhartinews.tv that a search exercise was undertaken earlier today. He noted that existing weather conditions had made it very difficult for the search activity.
Chhang Dawa Sherpa of Nepal and Lakpa Dendi Sherpa were picked up by Pakistan Army helicopters from the K2 base camp, but the teams finally returned.
“Today we were able to make search flights all over by two Pak Army helicopters with the help of the Army Aviation 5 squadron,” Dawa said in a Twitter statement.
The pilots, Lakpa Dendi and I, went through the places we knew to find the lost climbers. We had less visibility, and he said that the upper portions of the mountain were shrouded with clouds.
The pilots have done a fine job over the last three days, beyond their boundaries, but we can’t find any clues there. The team is waiting for another weather and quest alternative that is allowable, he added.
Ali Asghar Porik, the head of Jasmine Tours, said a helicopter needs four hours of flying time, which includes clear weather, to clarify how weather restricts a search mission.
It takes a helicopter 40 minutes from Skardu to enter the base camp. The chopper goes through the valley, and clear weather is a must for navigation purposes.” The weather becomes harsher and unpredictable above 5,000 m altitude, he said.”
The mountain should be visible clearly or else the search operation can’t be conducted,” Porik added.
Meanwhile, a source wishing to remain anonymous said the Sherpas have wrapped up their base camp. “Canadian filmmaker Elia Saikaly and climber Pasang Norbu Sherpa were taken to Skardu in a helicopter,” the source said.
Canadian filmmaker Saikaly has been at the base camp for the last two weeks to make a documentary on Ali Sadpara and his son about their accomplishments.
The Nepalese Sherpas closed their base camp but left their satellite phone behind [for others to use at the site] with the liaison officers, the source said.
Earlier, Sajid Sadpara, Ali Sadpara’s uncle, who was also part of the expedition but had to leave because of equipment problems, said the three climbers possibly experienced an accident while returning after the K2 summit. When he broke free from them, he said the trio had climbed 8,200m already.
Sajid said the odds of surviving the severely cold weather were “very low” after being missing for three days and without adequate gear, adding that an attempt to recover the bodies could be done.
“We had started our push for the K2 summit on February 5 at 12am. I, my father Ali Sadpara, John Snorri and JP Mohr were at the bottleneck, while other climbers had descended,” Sajid said, adding that after the oxygen regulator he was using leaked, he opted to descend to camp 3 from an altitude of 8,200m.