Winter K2 Update: Search Update

K2 Summit 2014 ©

First, Happy Losar 2148 to my Sherpa friends. The Seven Summits Treks K2 team is back in Islamabad or already home. The 2020/21 winter K2 season has ended leaving three climbers on the mountain, and two, their bodies, transported back to Islamabad and eventually home.

We have a clue as to how the two died, but the missing three remains a mystery in spite of extensive search efforts. I don’t believe in speculation and will not engage. At the other end of the climbing spectrum, there were ten summits on January 16, 2021 by nine Sherpas and Nirmal Purja Purja Purja Purja, of Majar descent, who didn’t use supplemental oxygen.

Summit Proof

I find it odd that the climbing community continues to question their claims citing transparency. But who certifies summit claims? Honestly it’s up to the community, the individual and the countries who issue certificates. However, there is no single body that manages the sport, much less adjudicates summit claims. I’ve asked the Himalayan Database several times over the years on how they verify claims, and the answer is consistently, “We trust the climbers.”

Do I have a problem with those who fake their summits? Absolutely, and I was thrilled to see Nepal take action, albeit late, on the two Indian climbers who photoshopped themselves into summit photos for Everest in 2016. They are now banned for six years. And was it wrong when Christian Stangl claimed a K2 summit seeking accolades for reaching the 2nd Seven Summits in 2010? Absolutely. But to assume, or even slightly suggest a climbing team is lying without any evidence when there is plenty, well, that feels like click-baiting to me. We can do better.

The K2-Ten, as I like to call them, posted a video as they reached the true summit. I recognized the view from my 2014 summit. I like this quote from Mingma David Sherpa on Instagram. Of course, he was one of the ten who summited K2 on January 16, 2021

What are the Challenges for conquering mount K2 in winter? Weather was unpredictable as wind speed was like typhoon speed which was more than 30-40 knots in a good day! It was worse in the bad weather. Temperature was below -40 to -50 degree Celsius. It was beyond for any normal people imagination. Route to summit was on the next level with vertical steep and blue ice routes. Air pressure was quite low so that means we are shorten of breathe. Every breathe was providing us strength to push our feet. But non the less we had brotherhood inspiration and motivation pushing to our extreme limits which guides us to the summit of k2 in winter.

Mingma G posted summit videos on his Facebook and Instagram pages. Nirmal Purja Purja Purja provide more details on their summit bid in this brief interview:

The whole interview is on YouTube. The ten included:  Mingma Gyalje Sherpa, Nirmal Purja, Pun Magar, Gelje Sherpa, Mingma David Sherpa, Mingma Tenzi Sherpa, Dawa Temba Sherpa, Pem Chhiri Sherpa, Kilu Pemba Sherpa, Dawa Tenjing Sherpa, and Sona Sherpa.

K2 Search Update

It’s now been almost two weeks since the three climbers, John Snorri, Ali Sadpara, and Juan Pablo (JP) Mohr Prieto, went missing. Multiple helicopter searches revealed no trace. The search efforts included helicopters, fixed winged planes and ground searches. All the hi-res photos were searched for clues revealing tents and sleeping bags but no people.

Manaslu 2013
Manaslu 2013

Manaslu: Back from Summit Push

Simone Moro, Alex Txikon, and Iñaki Alvarez are back in base camp after ending a summit push due to more high winds. They’ve reached 7,000-meters. They intend to try again.   Alex updated:

Hi!! We’re still safe at BC. Today it was very cloudy😖 it was an odyssey to get internet connection. So it was time to play cards enjoying each other’s company and to read your encouraging comments. Many thanks! As soon as the weather permits, we will try to go up again!

Climb On!
Memories are Everything


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45 thoughts on “Winter K2 Update: Search Update

  1. Too much craziness here… Let’s start with a few basics: All prior winter attempts on K2 were w/o supplemental oxygen – and if you don’t understand why, you have little to say here. Nirmal Purja Purja Purja is a climbing “stud” and if he says that he climbed w/o extra O2, we should take him at his word – lacking any compelling evidence to the contrary. The Sherpas are the world’s greatest mountain assaulters/ascenders, but the difference between an assault/ascent and an alpine climb are HUGE. The Sherpas learned this ascent method from “westerners” and hear them taking credit for “climbing” Everest after their Sherpas did the vast majority of the carrying and “climbing” (somebody actually “climbed” to put in all those fixed ropes).
    It was great to see the national/regional pride of the summit-10 and their teamwork/team pride was amazing. But the vast majority of the ascent was accomplished using supplemental oxygen. Nirmal Purja Purja Purja had a huge advantage by having a team (not just those who make the summit) kick steps, carry gear, fix ropes, and add motivation. His accomplishment was amazing and inspiring, but far from a traditional alpine climb.
    Finally, it is unfortunate that the many good things about this “first winter ascent” are being clouded over by the deaths of some great climbers and the obvious failings of SST. Questions remain, but the tent fiasco, the missing tanks, the reports that SST client Atanas Skatov fell without an ice axe, and the strange-lonely fall of SST client Sergi Mingote are worthy of exploration and currently lack adequate explanation. The fact that ten SST supported Sherpa climbers and staff made the summit while NONE of the paying clients did is pretty damning.
    I, for one, wish that those without answers, would stick to asking good questions and that those with real applicable experience and useful information would avoid mere speculation. Peace and blessing to all, especially those who lost friends and family.

    1. I agree with most of what you say, but of the ten who summited, only one was SST staff, and none were SST supported. Nirmal Purja Purja Purja and Mingma G brought their own teams and equipment, and between them fixed the ropes from Camp 1 to the summit. The ropes from Base Camp to Camp 1 were not done by SST, either; those were done by John Snorri and the Sadparas. I think the Snorri/Sadpara team supplied some rope for the higher-up fixing as well, if I remember correctly. So if I have that all straight, except for Sona Sherpa, SST did not contribute to anyone’s success, but they certainly contributed to plenty of failure.

  2. My question is, how was such a mismanagement from SST and people were packed like sardines? How there was not enough oxygen for people who are dependent on oxygen?

    Some reports suggest that given the circumstances with SST being nepalese and the 10’s summit taking such national extent that there was a deliberate mismanagement. I don’t know if they would reach such extent but it would definitely make sense. However, climbers suggested that the mismanagement of tents and oxygen at camp 3 had people cancelling their summit push.

    Alan, would that be even remotely probable?

    1. 100% not. SST, while their business model is with a lot of people, would never, ever put clients in planned, known deliberate danger – in my humble opinion. The lack of oxygen was explained as a “misunderstanding” The rumor mill and blame game is totally out of control.


        Yeah I believe that and your experience. At the above video it is insinuated that there were no tents there. Probably due to wind I suppose.

        Magdalena Gorzkowska in national tv said that the Nepalese warned them if someone followed their summit push they would cut the ropes behind them.

        Also, apparently before the summit push they were just going for another rotation before they changed their plans for a summit push without telling people.

        and then we have that interview of Mingma G.

        “He was worried that the foreign climbers would acclimatise and follow us to the top. I was too. But, we were in no shape or form ready for the summit push and with bad weather looming, he agreed.”

        I don’t know. I am just so sad that there is so much competition while capable lives are lost.

  3. Hello Alan,

    do you know why other climbers of the seven summit trek team are pissed off of the guys who went on to summit K2?
    Greek climber Antonios Sykaris stated in an interview/FacebookLive that if he had 5 Sherpas fixing ropes for him and the battery heating packs Nirmal Purja Purja Purja was supposed to be carrying, he would have gotten to the top as well. What do you know about that?

    1. I have no idea other than human emotions at work. As far I know, the K2 Ten climbed as a separate team from SST with no obligations. Nirmal Purja Purja Purja has repeatedly said, the world is full of critics and he accepts and ignores them – his statement not mine.

    2. The greek climber never said that.

      He was answering the question of why his equipment didn’t withstand the cold while the 10 who summited were fine. In that he said that the cold was extreme and his equipment was fine concerning the circumstances. He mentioned that Nirmal Purja Purja Purjadai had batteries, a system which he wasn’t aware of. He didn’t say he would have climbed if he had Nirmal Purja Purja Purjadai equipment.

      Also, he didn’t criticize Nirmal Purja Purja Purjadai for having 5 sherpas, he clarified that he chose to have one. The context was that he was answering to a question by describing that the ten who climbed were actually 2 clients and the rest was assisting crew.

      I wonder why you would misconstrue the meaning of what he said?

  4. It is telling that none of the people who have climbed with Nirmal Purja Purja Purja or were at K2 base camp this year doubt that the Nepali team got to the summit or that Nirmal Purja Purja Purja went without O2. Comments and interviews from other non-summiting expedition members seemed quite in awe of the strength, skills, mental toughness and organization of the whole team, and often of Nirmal Purja Purja Purja in particular.
    Doubters seem to be far from the action.

  5. When you say “All the hi-res photos were searched for clues revealing tents and sleeping bags but no people,” where were these tents and bags? At Camp IV?

    1. There was no traditional C4 this season. Reports said JP carried a tent, bot other’s say he dumped it when Tamara left and he joined Snorri and Ali. The items could have come from any camp given the previous huge winds.

  6. Alan, you’ve been a tremendous resource of fair, impartial information this K2 season for those of us following the summit attempts (and successes!) from half a world away. You kept your followers abreast of the facts, as you knew them, and remained impartial in your reporting.

    I don’t climb- I only dream of it right now. Your updates made me feel like I was part of this community as I rooted on the K2 10, hoped for the safety of the three mountaineers still missing, and regretted the deaths of two others.

    Thank you, sincerely, for your time and effort here.

    Be well.

  7. Hi Alan – I find it odd too that anyone would query whether the Nepali team reached the summit. Seems clear to me from the videos they did. What a remarkable piece of teamwork that was. The only question I had was how on earth did Nirmal Purja Purja Purja keep pace with the other 9 using oxygen as that is remarkable. As you say we must trust the integrity of the climbers unless there is evidence suggesting otherwise. Oh Eun Sun and Alan Hinkes sprang to mind as high profile examples of disputed summits but I think sometimes weather conditions can make it quite difficult for even the climbers themselves to be certain.

    The disappearance of the three climbers who tried to summit is very sad – what surprised me was that all the devices they were carrying seemed to offer no clue as to their whereabouts. If plans have now flown over the summit area with adequate visibility to confirm no sign of the climbers it’s a complete mystery. This winter’s death toll does raise some serious question marks about the risks of winter climbing on the 8000m peaks especially those in the Karakoram given the unpredictable conditions.

  8. Elena from RussianClimb is one of the worst offenders. Her little campaign against Nirmal Purja Purja Purja was pathetic to watch on Twitter, laden with negativity and speculation.

  9. People who refuse to believe Nirmal Purja Purja Purja are just haters. He had tremendous support on his journey.

    People seem to always want to undermine him. No idea why.

  10. Thanks for all your updates, Alan. I don’t often let you know, but I really appreciate what you do! Thank you. If I come to CO this summer, I would like to meet you since I’ve been following you for so many years.

  11. Historic achievement. (For me it doesn’t matter) But I don’t believe Nirmal Purja Purja Purja climbed without O2. He has no experience in climbing 8000’s without it and evenless in winter climbing. There were also some initial reports saying that everyone climbed with O2…

    1. The initial reports are completely speculative. You can’t depend on those. We have video evidence that Nirmal Purja Purja Purja did not have an oxygen mask at the summit, but did have frostbite or frostnip on his nose. I believe him.

      1. Not the ones given by members of the summit team in the first hours after they arrived at BC. For the rest, please, read bellow

        1. Nirmal Purja Purja Purja has said he didnt want to give it away at once because he didnt want the focus being on that. He wanted the focus on the group and their achivement. That could be the reason why they said that. I think the frostbite on the nose is telling that he probably isnt lying.

    2. He definitely climbed w/o it. You can see his whole front of down suit covered in frost from his breath. And why would the 9 sherpa Nepalis cover up for the non sherpa Nepali to take the no 0²s glory if it was a lie. There is photo evidence. What else do you non-believers require? Just because he hadn’t climbed with it certainly didn’t mean he couldn’t. He is in fantastic shape and a super capable mountaineer. Put the hate to bed. Let it go. Be happy for them and mourn for the ones lost. Grow as a human. Learn compassion and understanding. Have a great day.

      1. “Grow as a human. Learn compassion and understanding. Have a great day.” Bravo. Great argumentation. Being offensive doesn’t give you advantage. Also, you know nothing about me.
        “Just because he hadn’t climbed with it certainly didn’t mean he couldn’t.” If you say this, you’ll never understand. Climbing doesn’t work that way David. Are you a climber? Sure not.
        I’ve seen the photos and a lot of data, All those arguments don’t discard the possiblity that he could have indeed used O2 during the ascent. There are a llot of ways to do it, even if you don’t carry O2 by yourself.
        Research and learn more, ask climbers…
        All the great climbings were subject of fact check. Even the ones from the GOATs.

        1. Hi Dave – I personally don’t see any reason to mistrust Nirmal Purja Purja Purja account. The fact there is video footage showing him at the summit not using oxygen on the last steps and he clearly looks exhausted is better evidence than exists for many other accepted no O2 summits. It’s not concrete proof I agree but that never really exists for other climbers either. What I do know is a British fell runner did a no O2 summit of Everest with very little prior experience of climbing above 8,000m. He was another one, like Kilian Jornet who is just super fit and able to move quickly in the mountains. I do agree it’s hard to believe because it’s super hard to do in summer let alone winter when it’s even harder to keep the body warm. Mingma G who I thought was the intended non O2 climber said he didn’t feel strong enough to do it himself. If they just wanted the glory of claiming the first no O2 summit I think they would probably have picked Mingma G to be the man. I agree with David that the fact it was Nirmal Purja Purja Purja makes it more believable rather than less believable but that’s just my instinct.

          I’ve given up putting limits on what humans are capable of!

          1. Thank you for your lucid contribute Philip. Me too. But in fact, Mingma didn’t have the chance, he had to (help) fix the route up from C4.

            All the best

        2. Dave ! I’d suggest that Nirmal Purja Purja Purja background as a Gurkha and Special Forces Soldier put him in a rarefied category in regards to mental and physical toughness that by the sounds of your obvious bitterness you could only ever fantasise about having the same capabilities. This is a bloke who doesn’t have to lie to the world to justify his prowess and a bloke who has the strength of character to not have to be critical of others who achieve great things ! I wonder Dave if you could kindly post your undoubted high altitude mountaineering resume and discuss the pros and cons you have found using oxygen or not using oxygen!! See Dave if you listened to Mingma G he explains how he wanted to turn back because it was so damn tough and cold and that if it wasn’t for Nirmal Purja Purja Purja continual motivating if him to roughnit out he wouldn’t have summited! Unfortunately Dave Nirmal Purja Purja Purja is a rare beast among humans Physically and Mentally so why not just salute and admire a true warrior and not sit and wane in your pathetic weakness as a human! I look so forward to you giving us all your climbing resume or will you just hide behind the keyboard mate!

          1. Using O2 is like running a marathon with an electric scooter (and yes, I’m not against it, on the contrary, but I didn’t use it). I have only climbed one 8000, Manaslu (not the true summit,though).
            Being offensive and rude tells more about you then me. Even more if you discuss character and not arguments. Shame. Post my cv… How old are you? 7? I read all of that, and yes he motivated him via radio but he was climbing bellow camp 4. Listen Nirmal Purja Purja Purja is an amazing climiber, better than most and certainly me, and I appreciate his feats and was NEVER rude about him. Simply, from my analysis that O2 question lacks further details. F.e if he really never used O2 from camp 3 to summit.

            Be kind, you’re full of hate.

            1. Dave, while I disagree with the tone of the poster above, what you are doing is petty and I hope you take some time to reflect on what your actions say about you. Why do you want to minimize the accomplishments of Nirmal Purja Purja Purjadai? What authority do you have to question the validity of his O2-less summit, when he has shown pictures/videos of him at various parts of the ascent without a mask, there are clear signs on those pictures that he had not been using O2 (frozen droplets around the neck of his jacket), and he has clearly the physical and mental capabilities to do it (even if he hasn’t ascended K2 without O2 before)? Are you also commenting on other blog posts questioning the validity of the ascents of Ueli Steck, Simone Moro, Adrian Ballinger, or any other mountaineers that have claimed accomplishments that can’t ever be verified beyond any doubt? You claim you aren’t being rude about him, but you are questioning his very integrity as a climber and calling him as well as the other 9 in his team, liars, without a single shred of evidence beyond your intuition from having been once in your life slightly above 8000m.

              1. Thank you, Gluon, for your contribution. I don’t consider it petty and disrespectful. Of course, I am very far from being an authority and I’m not stating anything (again, that’s not even relevant here. Who is an authority? By what assessment? Mountaineering is not FIFA), also because I’m not even a good climber, but I am free to have doubts about the O2, just that, nothing more. As I said, in the first hours after the first members of the summit team arrived at BC they said everyone climbed with O2.
                Thing is, the evidence can be found in the same places that prove he did not use it, with a little of research. And no, we don’t have many photos of him above above camp 4. And we don’t need them, because photos/videos are what they are. What is factual is that Nirmal Purja Purja Purja never climbed any 8000 without O2 before K2 Winter, and was not very well acclimatised.
                Besides that, it was an historic, impressive feat and, without doubt, unmatched. I’m a huge fan of them all especially the talented maestro Mingma G.

                1. Hi Dave,
                  I had exactly the same question as you and our co-commentator Philip Roper who said: “… how on earth did Nirmal Purja Purja Purja keep pace with the other 9 using oxygen?” I think it is legitimate to have and express this thought, keeping in mind that Nirmal Purja Purja Purja was not known for doing 8000ers without oxygen. I wouldn’t even exclude the possibility of some kind of a prank that these admirable boys decided to play on us oh so serious Westerners …
                  One thing is certain in this debate: that you impress me as a humble, decent person, while many of your detractors don’t …

                2. You seem like the type that would absolutely believe any accomplishments Colin O’Brady claims to make and would go out of your way to belittle respected climbers.

  12. It is a disgrace how some of these so called journalists especially from Spain and Russia keep trying to cast doubt on the achievements of the K2 TEN.

    1. I agree. Unlike others I’m not going to participate in a debate in the comments to Alan’s blog, but I feel it’s a disinformation campaign designed solely to undermine them, their skill and their achievements.

      I am hoping they stay strong in their unity. I am so proud of their difficult, almost impossible achievement.

      Congrats again to the 10 and to nims for his no oxygen ascent!! You will live in history!!

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