Latest as of 3:00 am, Sunday, February 7, 2021, – K2 Time: John Snorri, Ali Sadpara, and Juan Pablo (JP) Mohr Prieto remain missing with no trace.
First the good news, Sajid Ali Sadpara is back in Base Camp. He is one strong individual. And the not-encouraging news, a helicopter did a cursory search for the missing climbers but didn’t get very high, certainly not in the area they were last seen in the Bottleneck.
Another flight will try on Sunday, but the winds will be similar to Saturday. Pakistani climbers Imtiaz Hussain and Akbar Ali were dropped off at Camp 1 to render aid if possible.
There are a few official updates but are already several hours old by now. First from Snorii’s home team (his wife I believe):
We regret to inform that we have not received any new news from John, Ali, and Pablo after the night. The only news we have is that Sajid Ali is descending safe from camp 3. We are grateful to the Pakistani army that has activated a helicopter rescue team and the Icelandic ministry of foreign affairs for their great cooperation. Thanks for all your support, we keep faith.
Dawa Sherpa, the leader of Seven Summits Treks and responsible for his overall expedition (Snorri’s was separate), gave this update:
Army’s Helicopter made a search flight almost up to 7000m and returned back to Skardu, unfortunately, they can not trace anything. The condition up in the mountain and even at the basecamp is getting poor. We are looking for further progress, but the weather and winds are not permissible. Sajid safely reached Camp I, he will descend to advance basecamp very soon, sent more help for him to advance BC.
Snorri’s logistics operator finally put out a statement:
I Asghar Ali Porik Jasmine Tours official organizers of Iceland K2 Winter Expedition John Snorri Sigurjónsson regrets to inform that after many hours pass we don’t have any confirm sighting of John Snorii, Muhammad Ali Sadpara.
Sajid Sadpara after sleeping in camp 3 is now walking back to base camp. Fazal, Jalal and two new Sadpara climbers (Imtiaz & Akbar from Sadpara Home) we sent today and taking food and supplies to help Sajid Sadpara.
There is no support we have from anyone as quoted in media. Only Sherpa possibly at c2 is waiting for their client who might help Sajid Sadpara too.
We are thankful to General Ehsan, General Dar, Army Aviation, 5 Squarden who are always come forward in support of Adventure community. We are thankful to Sajjad Shah and Alex Txikon who made calls to help us. Now a miracle can help us to see our beloved friends. We are still hoping for the best. We also request our friends tour operator to please avoid spreading unconfirmed report on media. We stand with family of John Snorii and Ali Sadpara and thinking positive for a miracle
And Waqas Johar,Assistant Commissioner, Shigar, GB.,Tweeted:
The two Pak Army helicopters have returned to skardu after doing search operation at k2 . They have found no clues . Weather condition is not good at k2. Sajjid sadpara is descending from camp 2.
There is no 100% confirmed news if they summited, their current status or plans. The three: John Snorri, Ali Sadpara, and Juan Pablo (JP) Mohr Prieto, are the only climbers on K2 this Sunday. JP was climbing without supplemental oxygen.
They left Camp 3 for their summit push around 23:00 on Thursday, February 4, 2021. They were last seen over a day ago. Now, It’s 3 am Sunday morning, February 7, 2021. Computer generated weather forecast continue to call for extremely cold have the summit temps at -42F/-41C with a wind chill at -80F/-62C.
The three along with Ali’s 22-year-old son, Sajid Ali Sadpara left Camp 3 around 23:00 Thursday night. They planned on moving fast, hoping to summit around 14:00 on Friday, just before the next wave of high winds were expected to hit the summit. They reached the Bottleneck when Sajid had a problem with his oxygen regulator and had to return to Camp 3. He returned alone, while the three men, presumably, continued higher. This was the last repot of their status, now close to two days ago. Sajid waited at Camp 3 for over a day. He did a short search but with no O’s and not acclimatized without it, it was very dangerous. He found no trace or saw headlamps on his sortie.
The only K2 summits thus far in the winter of 2020/21 was by the team of nine Sherpas and one Majar on January 16, 2021. Nirmal Purja Magar summited without supplemental oxygen accompanied by his nine teammates. They held hands and stood on the summit together singing the Nepali National anthem.
There have been two deaths on K2 this season, Spanish mountaineer Sergi Mingote who fell between Camp 1 and ABC then Bulgarian climber Atanas Skatov who fell just below Camp 3. Another climber, Russian/American Alex Goldfarb perished while acclimatizing for Broad Peak on nearby Pastori Peak.
Who Are They?
Muhammad Ali Sadpara – Pakistan was born in the village, Sadpara, on the outskirts of Skardu is by far one of the strongest climbers at K2 this winter. He has eight summits of 8000ers, including four on Nanga Parbat, the first winter summit of Nanga with Simone Moro and Alex Txikon in 2016. He attempted Everest along with Alex Txikon, in January 2018 but conditions stopped them. They were trying a no Os summit.
- Gasherbrum II (Pakistan) in 2006,
- Spantik Peak (Pakistan) in 2006,
- Nanga Parbat (Pakistan) in 2008,
- Muztagh Ata (China) in 2008,
- Nanga Parbat (Pakistan) in 2009,
- Gasherbrum I (Pakistan) in 2010,
- Nanga Parbat First Winter Ascent (Pakistan) in 2016,
- Broad Peak (Pakistan) in 2017,
- Nanga Parbat First Autumn Ascent (Pakistan) in 2017,
- Pumori Peak First Winter Ascent (Nepal) in 2017,
- K2 (Pakistan) in 2018,
- Lhotse (Nepal) in 2019,
- Makalu (Nepal) in 2019,
- Manaslu (Nepal) in 2019.
Ali was recently told that the rest of his 8000-meter attempts would be sponsored by the Pakistan government to which he responded:
I can’t express my feelings after hearing the news of the sponsorship to complete my dream of climbing all 14×8000. I’m so thankful to Khalid Khurshid Khan Chief Minister of Gilgit-Baltistan and Minister of Tourism GB Raja Nasir Ali Khan for making this possible by sponsoring my remaining 6 peaks. Let’s make Pakistan proud. Thanks for believing in me brothers.
Juan Pablo Mohr Prieto – Chile has an impressive list of climbing achievements including these 8000ers, all without supplemental oxygen:
- Annapurna – 2017
- Manaslu – 2018
- Everest – 2019
- Lhotse – 2019 (6 days after Everest with Ali)
- Dhaulagiri – 2019 (with Ali)
He discussed with Desnivel in a December 2020 interview about climbing 8000-meter peaks:
I believe that each of these experiences in the mountains makes you stronger. When you are above 6,000 or 7,000 meters, all emotions are stronger than in normal life and that is one of the things that motivates you to return to these mountains. Apart also from the aesthetic and how happy one feels. In my case, I believe that the mountain is the place where I belong and where I feel happiest. That is the energy that I want to come and take to these places so that I can get home transmitting this same energy to my family, my friends and everyone.
John Snorri Sigurjonsson – Iceland is a professional mountaineer. This was his third climb on K2 with a summit in 2018 and a winter attempt in 2019. His 8000er achievements include:
- Lhotse – 2017
- K2 – 2017
- Broad Peak – 2017
- Manaslu – 2019
John’s says on his website:
Born in 1973 and raised in the countryside of Ölfus, Iceland, John Snorri excelled at sports at an early age, and later found his physical and mental passion in mountain climbing. Growing up in Iceland, John Snorri has spent his life exploring the rugged wilderness that surrounds him. It is this strong connection to nature and the drive to conquer his own physical limitations in a measurable way that has fueled his passion for mountain climbing.
For him, the climb isn’t solely to reach the mountain peak but also to exemplify the immense human potential that is often underestimated. Mind over mountain.
High Altitude Bivouacs
Moutnaineering does have a history of astonishing high altitude bivys. The Adventure Jounral has a nice run down. These are some of the highlights:
1. Hermann Buhl, Nanga Parbat, 1953
Hermann Buhl, above, was so fast on the first ascent of 26,660-foot Nanga Parbat that he just decided to leave the rest of his German-Austrian climbing team behind and summit without them. He topped out at 7 p.m., but lost a crampon on the descent, which slowed him, and he eventually had to bivy – standing up, with one handhold – on a rock ledge above 8,000 meters. He had no down jacket and hadn’t used oxygen on the ascent. He walked into camp the next evening, 41 hours after he had left, hallucinating and frostbitten. The Nanga Parbat climb is the only solo first ascent of an 8000-meter peak.
2. Willi Unsoeld, Tom Hornbein, Barry Bishop, and Lute Jerstad, Everest 1963
On the American Everest Expedition in 1963, Willi Unsoeld and Tom Hornbein decided that climbing the South Col route, which at that time had seen less than 10 ascents (including Jim Whittaker and Sherpa Nawang Gombu a few days earlier, the first American ascent of the peak), wasn’t quite adventurous enough. They legendarily headed up the mountain’s West Ridge, a bold route with no retreat option – midway up the route, they realized that up and over the summit would be their only way down. They met American climbers Barry Bishop and Lute Jerstad, who had climbed the South Col route, around 28,000 feet. Disoriented, and Bishop and Jerstad out of oxygen, the men dug in just after midnight and spent the night in what was the highest bivouac at the time. The men survived, but lost some digits to frostbite in the aftermath. The bivouac is chronicled in Hornbein’s book, Everest: The West Ridge.
3. Dave Johnston, Art Davidson, and Ray Genet, Denali, 1967
On February 28, 1967, Dave Johnston, Art Davidson, and Ray Genet, became the first climbers to stand on Denali’s 20,322 summit in winter. On the descent, the men dug a tiny snow cave above 18,000 feet and spent March 1 there in a blizzard. And March 2. As the windchill dropped temperatures as low as -148 Fahrenheit, the men hung on – for six days total. Art Davidson’s account of the climb and descent, Minus 148 Degrees, became a mountaineering classic.
4. Doug Scott and Dougal Haston, Everest, 1975
In 1975, Doug Scott and Dougal Haston put up a new route on the Southwest Face of Mt. Everest, climbing for 14.5 hours and topping out at 6 p.m., then realizing a moonless night was about to set in. They considered their options, and rather than try to descend in the darkness, they located a snow cave they’d dug earlier in the day, enlarged it a bit, and hunkered down – at 28,750 feet, the highest bivy in the history of mountaineering. Despite hallucinations and a lack of oxygen, neither man suffered any frostbite. They made it into camp the next morning at 9 a.m.
5. Doug Scott, Mo Anthoine, Chris Bonington, and Clive Rowland, Baintha Brakk/The Ogre, 1977
Not one specific bivouac, but a series: Scott, Anthoine, Bonington, and Rowland spent a number of nights descending from the Ogre’s 23,900-foot summit, after Scott broke both legs when he slipped rappelling and pendulumed into a gully. He and Bonington bivvied at 23,000 feet without food or a stove. The next morning, Anthoine and Rowland, who had climbed a different route, joined them and helped Scott into a snow cave they’d dug below the summit. They spent two nights there waiting out a storm. The four men then went up to the west summit with Scott slowly jumaring ropes. They dug a snow cave on the other side of the peak and started to descend in the storm, Scott crawling. Then Bonington rappelled off the end of a rope and broke two ribs. On night number six, they got back to their tents and wet sleeping bags, and spent one more night at that camp (still above 21,000 feet) before they were able to descend. When they got to base camp, they found it abandoned – the other climbers figured they were dead. Scott and Bonington waited five days at base camp while Anthoine ran ahead to organize porters to carry Scott out. Then it only took three days for the porters to get Scott to a place where he could be picked up by a helicopter – which crash-landed while dropping him off in Skardu. No one was hurt, but Bonington sat out another week in the mountains before he could get down.
6. Jim Wickwire, K2, 1978
At 5:20 p.m. on September 5, 1978, Lou Reichardt and Jim Wickwire became the first Americans to summit K2, the second-highest mountain in the world. Reichardt started down the descent before Wickwire, who changed the film in his camera and buried a list of the expedition’s supporters in the snow on the summit. Wickwire started down too late, and neglected to bring a flashlight or headlamp. He dug a bivy ledge in the snow 450 feet below the summit and hung on, waking during the night to realize he had slipped down the snow slope within about 30 feet of a 10,000-foot drop. The next morning, 14 hours after parting with Reichardt, he ran into John Roskelley and Rick Ridgeway, who had climbed up in search of Wickwire and/or try for the summit themselves. He convinced them he was okay to descend by himself and made it to rejoin Reichardt at the team’s high camp.
7. Joe Simpson, Siula Grande, 1985
In 1985, Joe Simpson and Simon Yates boldly climbed the first ascent of the West Face of 20,813-foot Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes, alpine-style. On their descent of the north ridge, Simpson slipped off an ice cliff and shattered his right leg. Yates tied their twin 150-foot ropes together and began lowering Simpson down the ridge 300 feet at a time as a storm rolled in. Eventually, Yates unknowingly lowered Simpson off an overhanging cliff, and Simpson hung on the rope out in space, unable to communicate up to Yates. He tried climbing the rope, but his hands were frostbitten. Yates, slowly slipping from a standing belay stance, eventually used Simpson’s knife to cut the rope, dropping Simpson into a crevasse. Simpson spent a night inside the crevasse as Yates, figuring his partner was dead, descended to their base camp. Simpson, unable to climb up out of the crevasse, downclimbed and found a way out, and spent the next three days crawling and hopping five miles back to camp, reaching Yates just before he was to leave. The story was made famous in Simpson’s book, Touching the Void, and in a movie of the same name.
8. Beck Weathers, Everest, 1996
On May 10, 1996, Texas pathologist Seaborn Beck Weathers took off for the summit for Everest with guide Rob Hall. On his way up, the high altitude and UV radiation took a toll on his eyes, which, post-radial keratotomy surgery, developed lacerations and lost vision. Hall told Weathers to sit and wait while he guided clients to the summit, so he did. Unfortunately, Hall never returned to get Weathers. A storm rolled in. Another guide who was descending added Weathers to his four-person rope team and attempted to guide them down to high camp, but was unable. He left the team and descended to get help. When the guide returned, Weathers and another climber had lapsed into hypothermic comas. They were left for dead 300 yards from camp, Weathers’ hands and face exposed. In the morning, Sherpas found Weathers and the other climber and chipped ice off their faces, finding them to be breathing, but nearly dead. A few hours later, Weathers regained consciousness and stumbled into Camp IV, alive. He wrote about his battle and the aftermath in his book Left For Dead.
Plus another on K2 in 2008 by Dutch Wilco Van Rooijen, and Marco Confortola who spent 2 nights bivy just above the Bottleneck. He is one of only a few people to survive two days above 8000-meters. He suffered third degree frostbite on all his toes and both feet.
Of course most of these were in summer and didn’t last as long as we are currently seeing. But these stories do provide proof of the human will to live and persevere.
Memories are Everything