ISLAMABAD - The search for three climbers, who went missing on Pakistan’s K2 mountain earlier this month, has found no trace of them.
Iceland’s John Snorri, 47, Chile’s Juan Pablo Mohr, 33, and Pakistan’s Muhammad Ali Sadpara, 45, lost contact with base camp on February 5 during their ascent of what global mountaineers describe as the killer mountain. K2 is the world’s second-highest mountain at 8,611 meters.
"An unprecedented search in the history of mountaineering has been ongoing," Vanessa O’Brien, the first British-American mountaineer to climb K2, said Sunday.
She is assisting the search effort as part of the virtual base camp comprising family members in Iceland, Chile, and specialists from around the world, including in Pakistan.
"It has been nine long days. If climbing the world’s second-tallest mountain in winter is hard, finding those missing is even more of a challenge," said O’Brien.
When asked whether the men could still be alive despite harsh winter conditions, O’Brien told VOA, "That I don’t know. But on Valentine’s Day, I guarantee you they were loved by their families and their nations."
She explained that specialists, with "devoted support" from Pakistani, Icelandic and Chilean authorities, have scrutinized satellite images, used synthetic aperture radar technology, scanned hundreds of pictures, and checked testimonials and times.
"When the weather prevented the rotary machines (helicopters) from approaching K2, the Pakistan Army sent a F-16 (aircraft) to take the photographic surveys," O’Brien said.
Unfortunately, there has been no sign of the missing climbers, she added.
Karrar Haidri, an official at the private Alpine Club of Pakistan that promotes mountaineering in the country, said the base camp stopped receiving signals from Snorri and his companions after they reached 8,000 meters.
Sonrri made his first winter attempt on K2 in 2019, but was forced to abort it "when two members of his team expressed they did not feel fully prepared" for the expedition.
K2 has gained the reputation as "Savage Mountain" because while more than 6,500 people have climbed the world’s highest peak, Everest, only 337 have conquered K2 to date.
Since 1954, up to 86 climbers have died in their attempt to scale K2, where summit winds reach hurricane force and still-air temperatures can plunge below -65 degrees Celsius.
Experts say about one person dies on K2 for every four who reach the summit, making it the deadliest of the five highest peaks in the world.
Since the first failed bid in 1987-88, only a few expeditions had attempted to summit K2 in winter.
Last month, a 10-member team of Nepali climbers made history when they became the first to climb K2 in winter.
Located in the Karakoram range along the Chinese border, K2 was the last of the world’s 14 tallest mountains higher than 8,000 meters to be scaled in winter.
Bulgarian alpinist Atanas Skatov died earlier this month on K2. A renowned Spanish climber, Sergi Mingote, fell to his death last month while descending the mountain.