Recon flights by Pakistan Army

Missing climbers on K2, possible rescue strategy in a small weather window

Search and Rescue operation will be initiated again with the help of Pakistan Army Helis in a small weather window which will last no longer then mid-day. The climbers are now missing for straight two days having made no contact with the base. There was no movement or trace of movement recorded yesterday either through the recon flights or from the ground telescopes. Sajid Sadpara who reached Base Camp yesterday is the only source that can give any accurate position of the climbers and shed some insight into the strategy they were following.

K2 Bottleneck courtesy: Adrian Ballinger

The Helis can only fly up to 7000m for recon that too with half the fuel tank and shedding all the extra weight on the machine. Meaning the flights cannot remain airborne for longer periods and they will have to shuttle back to Skardu or Paiyu Military camp for refueling. This is almost 400m below the normal Camp-3 on the Abruzzi and hardly opens up the vista towards the shoulder and bottleneck. Two Pakistani rescue climbers Imtiaz and Ali, who volunteered for the rescue, are already in the Base Camp. Chang Dawa of SST is all in support for the SAR operations designating sherpas and equipment for the mission.

View from Camp-4 @7900m
View from Camp-4 @7900m

There is also a possibility that the trio bivouacked somewhere between the traverse and bottleneck and possibly tried to move further down towards Camp-3, although no movement has been recorded by the Base Camp. Extremely cold, frostbitten, and possibly hallucinating, they must be well aware that the only way to be rescued would be to reach Camp-3 on their own.

John and Ali

The only factor which needs to be verified before the SAR operations are called off would be to airlift the rescue climbers to 6900m where they can climb another 500m to check any presence or signs of movement in Camp-3 at 7400m. They can also scout the shoulder region with telescopes before they would rush back to the base camp. They must also be accompanied with SST Sherpa who knows the current positioning of the fixed ropes on the route and who has shuttled a few times between camp-2 and Base this season.