Elia Saikaly and Sajid Sadpara are back on K2 this summer as they search for the 3 climbers that went missing and died on the mountain earlier this year.
John Snorri, Juan Pablo Mohr and Sajid’s father Ali Sadpara all failed to return from their summit bid in January and now Sajid and Elia, plus others, are on K2 to look for answers as to what could have happened.
We will follow their progress with this Diary…
“It took losing my own father to a brutal car crash on July 25th, 2018 and traveling extraordinary lengths to find answers leading up to his death, crossing the blurred unwritten lines between (in)sanity and love to understand (and support) just how far a young man would go to bury his father, remove him from the pathway where all could see and honor his name and memory according to Islamic tradition.
“I am still processing what happened high up on K2. Sajid was unstoppable, fueled by a determination only a son can have for his fallen and missing father.
“We were in the death zone for two days, on the mountain for five, let down by both of our high altitude porters and forced to carry their responsibility on our backs. To say it was intense would be a disservice to the experience and the sheer power of the King of all mountains. K2 was kind to us, very kind. And we are humbled and grateful.
“This was Sajid’s journey and PK and I were passengers on his sacred mission. Adapting to his every emotion and move, reaction and action was the strategy. The strength, bravery, courage and commitment to his father was one of the powerful forces I’ve ever witnessed. He is his fathers son.
“Sajid covered up Juan Pablo with snow and brought some of his belongings home for his family. He then buried his father Ali Sadpara and performed a burial ritual outside of camp 4. He also searched our dear friend John Snorri’s lifeless body for clues and evidence of a winter ascent. I hung by my ascender on a 75 degree slope of blue ice and recorded that moment, and all others, as our parallel mission was to honor our missing friends by finishing what we started in winter. We retraced their footsteps, found answers, many which are devastatingly heartbreaking, and we continue to gain insight into exactly what happened.
“Lead with your heart, not your ego. One can never go wrong.
“The soul of the son of Pakistan’s Snow Leopard can finally rest. As can mine. Finally.”
Elia Saikaly and Sajid Sadpara today reached the summit of K2 in respect of their fallen family and friends.
“On the descent Sajid has single handedly retrieved the body from above bottleneck, carried down to C-4 and have secured the body there. He has offered fatih & recited verses of Holy Quran as per Islamic rituals and acc to wishes of his mother.”
“Elia Saikaly has managed to retrieve John Snorri’s Camera, Garmin, and Phone. Sajid, Elia, and PK will now head down to BC and will see if Ali and the team made it to the summit last winter.”
“Leaving from C3 to C4
“In a Search mission
“Need lots of prayers mission Sadpara.”
“We have started our climb again. Will resume search, both physical and by drones; above 8000m and beyond bottleneck. I am hopeful of finding a trace and answers.”
“This is our 2nd rotation on K2. I know this mountain very well. This year I observe alot of snow in high camps specially C3 and C4. We searched these areas but we didn’t find any clues. Weather was perfect.
“Purpose of Climbing K2: I am here for a search mission and we are making a documentary.
“Thank you Elia Saikaly for his support and also thanks to Sherpa PK, Fazal Ali and Aziz Baig.”
“Team is back to basecamp after physical search up-to 7800m and drone search around bottleneck at 8300m. No lead found or luck yet. Avalanche and worsening weather has forced the team back to basecamp. Fresh efforts after the storm.”
“It was an epic three day rapid acclimatization / search / filming trip up to beneath camp four.
“We pushed from basecamp to camp 2, overnighted and then blasted up to camp 3. We had the upper mountain to ourselves. The following morning, as expected and forecasted, the conditions were impeccable.
“The powerful team of Sherpas from Nepal, our friends from Madison Mountaineering / Himalayan Guides, opened up and fixed the route to the base of camp 4 and blasted out a trail. Without their efforts, our work would have been impossible.
“We flew our drones beneath the bottleneck in impeccable conditions as high as 8300m looking for clues of what may have happened to our friends while doing recon for the teams coordinating the future effort above.
“By day 4, the weather shifted and we woke up to an avalanche at camp 3. Pelican case sized snow boulders were catapulting down the hill towards us. We knew it was time to retreat as the calculated weather risk was unfolding in real-time. We packed up the tent, secured the oxygen and made the quick descent from camp 3 to basecamp in whiteout conditions.
“I’m personally battered at the moment, but grateful for young Sajid who insisted we use the window at hand regardless of the lack of recovery time.
“We had hoped to make it a bit higher than we did at 7800m, but a technical impasse blocked us. We climbed as high as we could and did everything possible search / film related. No traces thus far.”
“A new morning with new hope for search. Day starting from C-2. Prayers of a nation needed.”
“We are climbing again and will resume retracing the higher slopes above The Shoulder. We will sleep at C-2 today, and will hit C-4 by tmrw. Weather is clear for 2-3 days and everyone’s in high spirit for the search.”
“A few days ago while climbing high on K2, @sherpapk and I found the oxygen that was intended to enable the final portion of our winter climb and production on K2. At the time, we were incredibly disappointed that between 5 experienced mountaineers, the location of where this oxygen was and the circumstances surrounding its placement remained vague and unclear. Not finding this oxygen marked the end of our expedition.
“As fate would have it, holding our position, listening to the voice of the mountain, humbly bowing down and accepting defeat, recognizing that our film efforts would not be fully realized, likely saved our lives. We held our position at Japanese Camp 3 and rather than joining our friends on their summit bid, we huddled together in a tent in -45c for the night and descended to safety.
“Having turned back on mountains a number of times before, despite the let down, I must admit that I was tremendously relieved. This was winter K2 after all. As those who summited put it: it is simply unimaginable up there above 8000m. I knew in that moment that PK, Fazal Ali and I would be returning home. When all goes wrong goes right – nothing is more humbling.
“Climbing to Japanese Camp 3 and discovering these bottles transported us back to that fateful night on February 4th. We were treading the edge of our abilities and when we hit the wall and all signs pointed to throwing in the towel we immediately accepted the reality of the situation. It was over.
“And now we found it and it will once again, hopefully, if all aligns, be the enabler of our little 5 person operation high above the clouds.
“A gift of circumstance and serendipity from the stars.”
Sajid – “It is different kind of feeling to be back in mountains specially the K2. After four and half months I am back in the mountains and feeling amazing on my first climbing day. It was our first rotation and we spendt two nights in C1 and two nights in C2 plus we climbed up to Japanese C3.”
Elia – “It’s impossible to slow this young man down. The fire in his eyes and in his heart has created an unstoppable force.
“As you can imagine, it’s been an emotional journey so far, retracing our own footsteps and those of our friends from last winter. There have been some pivotal moments where realizations have been made upon revisiting key locations, resulting in deeper questions being asked about the outcome and circumstances surrounding last winter on K2 and the culminating events with all who attempted the summit and journeyed as high as camp 3.
“Our approach has been to live the experience day by day. There are high hopes and ideal scenarios, yet no attachment to any particular outcome as we are all aware that K2 will always have the final say and will dictate what we are able to accomplish. So far, the mountain has been incredibly kind. We had 4 impeccable days above the clouds, climbed higher than we planned, discovered more than we anticipated, filmed more than I personally could have hoped for and descended without issue. The latter for me, is always the number one priority: a round trip for all.
“We’ve been incredibly busy since descending. We have been problem solving with necessary technology that arrived to basecamp yesterday, all with unreliable sluggish internet. After 15hrs of effort, with the help of some angels from afar, we managed to get everything working. We are all doing well, we’re in great spirits and ready to ascend once we are recovered and a window reveals itself.
“More to come.”
“Team is back to basecamp after spending a night at Japanese Camp-3 below The Shoulder. With sudden change in weather, likely chances of snow and dip in temp below -20 C. Team will resume attempt likely on Thursday.”
Elia – “The call of the mountain.
I sat outside my tent last February, staring up at the ‘Savage Mountain’, after the disappearance of our friends John Snorri and Ali Sadpara, my soul was on fire and I had a look in my eye of pure determination. I knew then that we would return. We had to. Honor is everything.
For me, it’s impossible to ignore the call of the soul and the call of the mountain.
I am typing this post at camp 2, huddled into a tent with Pasang Kaji next to me while Sajid Sadpara rests his eyes in the tent next door. We are retracing John and Ali’s footsteps up the mountain and as you can imagine the emotions are running high, particularly for Sajid who is determined to find his father and our missing friends.
For a certain kind of person, a winter ascent of K2 and the high risk nature of the endeavor is intoxicating. It is the ultimate high. It’s very easy, if you’re not careful, to allow the ego to creep in and completely take over, dominate your judgement and lose total sense of self and self awareness of the inherent risks and potential collateral damage that can take place.
This season feels void of ego. Atleast with the company we are keeping. We have great friends nearby and take comfort in their presence.
K2 has been INCREDIBLY generous thus far and we are both humbled and deeply grateful as we progress higher on our mission.
Sajid Sadpara is living the most intense emotions up here and PK and I are doing our best to support him. He has his fathers strength and unparalleled spirit.
Upwards we climb my friends. More photos and updates now that the internet is working again.
Much love from all of us.”
Sajid – “Stormy conditions with snow fall for past few days has forced the team to stay at Camp-1 and acclimatise. With clear skies we will move onward and upwards.”
Sajid – “On way towards Advanced Base Camp on Abruzzi Spur; reconnaissance & acclimatising.”
Elia – “This is where it all began for PK, Sajid and I. Last winter, we set off with Sajid on an acclimatization hike just outside of basecamp. We got to know this young man and learned a bit about what it was like for him to be climbing K2 with his father in winter during the historic and ultimately fateful season.
“Today, we retraced our own footsteps to gain some altitude and to further the story we are telling. We hiked up to 5300m and ended up filming a spontaneous moment where Sajid played a video of a song called ‘Pharong Ki Qasam’, a tribute to Ali Sadpara, written and performed by Ali Zafar.
As the snow fell from the sky, Sajid’s eyes did all the talking as he listed and sang the words of the famous Pakistani song.
It’s a privilege to be here, living this journey with Sajid, Pasang, Fazal, Aziz, Mosin and the rest of the staff. We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day, snowflakes and all, at the base of the second highest mountain on Earth.
Spirits are high here at K2 basecamp and it feels as though Ali and John’s spirits are with us in our camp, just as we left it last February.
Eternally grateful. The journey continues.”
Sajid – “Thank you SCOM for starting a 4G Services in the K2 area and also to dedicating this tower in the name of Ali Sadpara. The SCOM tower is inagurated by Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan. Due to this service we are now contact with the world.”
Elia – “A few hours away from K2 basecamp.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t exhausted. The rigamarole of mounting both an expedition and documentary production, which includes the management of every detail from finances, logistics, formalities, marketing, social, politics, relationships, egos, invisible hands, content, jet lag and constant fires to put out, really takes its toll. But I’m here. We made it. All is in place. Everyone is healthy and in good spirits and all of the above is now noise in the background that will be placed aside the moment we arrive at K2 basecamp.”
“Something happens to me on these expeditions. It’s as though I’m able to become the best version of myself. The adversity can either crush you or aid you in becoming who you really are. For me, because I’m an artist first, it’s as though I’m in constant state of flow, in a heightened state of awareness, where my work which is my passion, my athleticism and my humanism all collide to create the most profound experience.”
“Truth is: this mountain scares the shit out of me. As it should. It’s K2, not Everest. There’s no margin for error whatsoever. I lost two good friends up there in winter and lost another friend, Serge Dessureault a few years back, who I was also supposed to be filming. Veterans die on this mountain. We are approaching K2 with the deepest level of respect, as we do all mountains. K2, with additional caution and tremendous humility.”
“Getting Sajid here so he has a chance to find his father is everything. As important as finding John and Juan Pablo. But I also have a lot to say about last winter that I will unpack in our film. I kept my mouth shut about some of the events that transpired last winter in fear of my words being stripped down to sound bytes. We will methodically unpack it all and get to the heart of the truth of the many questions that are unanswered. I’ve got to shoot all of this as well, which is a load to carry alone, but this is what I do.”
Elia – “We’re two days away from the base of the 2nd highest mountain on Earth. To say this trek is stunning would be an understatement. It’s wild and filled with local people whose smiles light up your heart.
“Pakistan has been on my radar for years. As a storyteller, what was most important to me was visiting this beautiful country with an intent to tell local stories and if possible, to tell the story of the unsung heroes in relation to K2. When I first heard about Ali Sadpara, his son Sajid and John Snorri, I knew that I had found the story I was looking for. It was an historic season and there were 3 heroes the world needed to know about. What I didn’t know is that the pursuit the story would lead me down this path. It would have been easy to stop and accept the outcome and move on, but that just wasn’t something I could live with. And it wouldn’t be me. And honoring your souls journey is everything as is honoring the fallen.
“And so here we are, in beautiful Pakistan, connecting with the local people, amidst some of the highest mountains on Earth on our way to fulfill a mission that chose us.”
Sajid – “Past four months have been very challenging and life in civilisation isn’t simple for a mountaineer. I have started feeling alive as soon as I am back to the mountains. Thanks you Elia Saikaly for being a companion on the first days of our trek.”
Sajid – “We have started first day of our trek from Askole village situated at 3060m above sea level, century old launchpad of expeditions for K-2, Gasherbrums, Broad Peak, Latoks, Trangos and so many other peaks of Central Karakoram.”
“We have started off towards Askole today in jeeps, from where we will start of our 7 days trek to the K-2 basecamp.”
Sajid – “It’s time to announce that Elia Saikaly and I are going to K-2 for a ground search of the 3 missing climbers of K-2Winter2021 including my father Ali Sadpara. To find out what happened to them & possibility of his recovery. Need lots of prayers and good wishes.”
Elia – “I’m in Pakistan and headed to K2 with Sajid Sadpara to search for his father, Ali Sadpara and our dear friend John Snorri.
“The truth is: I just couldn’t do nothing. These are our friends. These were our teammates. We were making a film about their winter ascent. We were supposed to be with them the night they disappeared with JP Moer and we are likely alive because fate intervened as an oxygen mix-up forced PK and I back just below camp 3. Ali, JP Mohr and John never returned. Sajid survived.
“While climbing Everest this spring, I obsessively sought out support to finish our film and honor our friends, yet in the end, we failed to gain financial support, as did Sajid. Unwilling to quit, in the last two weeks, our tiny unit pulled off a miracle and today, a very grown-up Sajid launched the project in the Pakistani press.
“@sherpapk will be with us as will Fazal Ali, Mosin, Aziz and the cooking staff from the winter ascent. Asghar from @jasminetourspakistan helped us pull it all together at the 11th hour. PK Sherpa moved mountains in Nepal to ensure we have all that we need.
“I’ve flipped my entire world and my finances upside-down, but I don’t care. I’ll clean the mess up when I get home. It’s incredible what a few people can pull together with will and determination. sherpapk @vobonline @sajidalisadpara @hassan.bin.aftab @hc_wendy_gilmour, Rao and Moira- you’re the people who helped make this happen.
“For all those who asked over the past months, there’s just no way we wouldn’t be here.
“This is our quest to find answers. This is about honor, loyalty and friendship. This is for Sajid. This is for Ali. This is for John. And this is for Pakistan.”