Just this Sunday, five Spanish climbers attempted to scale the 8,068-metre high Gasherbrum-I peak, which lies in the Karakoram range. They managed to scale the peak but went missing since, according to a tour operator who denied the official claim they have been located.
“One has arrived at the base camp, while another is holed up somewhere at camp-3,” said Anwar Ali of Lela Peak Expedition, the company that organised the trek to G-1. “
An official in the tourism department had earlier claimed that the three missing climbers had been traced and were on their way back to the base camp. However, Ali said this was not true. The “tough and challenging” conditions would make recovery of the missing climbers difficult, he added.
Xevi Gomez, Alvaro Paredes and Abel Alonso reportedly made it to the top of the peak on July 21, while the other members of their team decided against accompanying them up from camp -3.
The G-1 tragedy coincides with another tragic incident that took place on Broad Peak. Eerily, just like the Spanish climbers, three Iranian climbers were also descending when they went missing. Bad weather conditions have hampered rescue and search operations on both the peaks.
On G-1, authorities on Tuesday launched a desperate mission to locate the missing climbers, to little avail. Helicopters could not achieve the required height due to thick fog and poor visibility.
Although the mission to locate the Iranian climbers has not officially been called off, no further attempts are expected. Experts, such as Thomas Laemmle, who conducted two aerial surveys to locate the climbers, have ruled out any chances of having the missing Iranian climbers still being alive.
“The weather isn’t going to allow aerial search on G-1 either,” said Ali.
Waiting for the winds to change
According to tour operators, around 21 climbers are awaiting better weather at the K-2 base camp to make an attempt to reach the summit. A window to ascent is expected to open up after July 27. If it happens, teams will leave the camp on July 24.
Pakistan is home to five of the world’s 14 tallest peaks over 8,000 metres, including the world’s 2nd highest mountain, K-2 in Skardu. Although many groups conclude missions with success, deaths are not uncommon.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 25th, 2013.