Pakistan suspends winter ascents after 3 climbers go missing

World News

A photo of K2, the world’s second-highest mountain, is displayed on a cell phone in Islamabad, Pakistan, Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021. Families of the three mountaineers who went missing in Pakistan last week while attempting to scale K2 are growing more desperate on Tuesday, a day after bad weather halted the search for the climbers. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistani authorities suspended all winter ascents, effective immediately, after three climbers went missing while attempting to scale K2 amid harsh weather in the country’s north, a mountaineering official said Wednesday.

The development comes after Pakistan’s climber Ali Sadpara, Jon Snorri of Iceland and Juan Pablo Mohr of Chile lost contact with base camp on Saturday. Their support team has not received any communications from the 8,611-meter (28,250-foot) high K2, the world’s second highest peak, sometimes referred to as “killer mountain.”

A search and rescue operation could not resume for the straight second day Wednesday because of bad weather, said Karrar Haidri, head of the Pakistan Alpine Club.

He said about two dozen climbers from various countries, who were trying to scale K2, were heading back to their base camps after the immediate suspension of winter expeditions.

Located in the Karakorum mountain range, K2 is one of the most dangerous climbs — one never accomplished in winter until last month, when a team of 10 Nepalese climbers made history by scaling it.

Bad weather has plagued the search. It was halted on Monday as heavy clouds enveloped most of K2. Since then, no helicopter could fly amid diminishing hope for the survival of missing climbers, Haidri said.

He said authorities were meeting Wednesday to decide how to handle the situation amid continuing bad weather. At K2, winds can blow at more than 200 kph (125 mph) and temperatures can drop to minus 60 degrees Celsius (minus 76 Fahrenheit).

In one of the deadliest mountaineering accidents ever, 11 climbers died in a single day trying to scale K2 in 2008. Sadpara’s son Sajid Ali Sadpara, who had began the climb with his father but was forced to abandon the summit attempt after his equipment failed, has said only a miracle could bring the climbers back alive.

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