Now Reading: Ali Sadpara Joined K2 Expedition as High-Altitude Porter Not a Climber
There has been no news about the three K2 climbers, Muhammad Ali Sadpara, Juan Pablo Mohr, and John Snorri Sigurjonsson since they went missing nine days ago, but people on social media are now speculating that Sadpara had joined the winter expedition to the world’s second-highest mountain as a high-altitude porter.
The speculations began when Pakistan’s renowned mountaineer Nazir Sabir who holds the honor of being the first Pakistani to conquer the world’s highest peak, Mount Everest claimed that Sadpara had been involved in the expedition not as a climber but as a paid high-altitude porter for Snorri.
This claim was also verified by Sadpara’s manager, Rao Ahmed. He said that Snorri had chosen the most talented and experienced mountaineer in not just Pakistan but from all over the world. Ahmed also remarked that Sadpara had hoisted the flag of Pakistan in extremely difficult circumstances.
He said: “They never had the resources. He has never received such sponsorship in Pakistan that he would go ahead and conquer a peak on his own. So when foreign climbers came, they helped him.”
The owner of the Jasmine tour operator Ali Asghar also disclosed that Snorri had paid ten thousand dollars to Sadpara for his services, which was double of what Sadpara usually charged foreign climbers for his services in the summer.
For the people of Pakistan, this tragic disappearance of one of its proudest sons, mountaineer Muhammad Ali Sadpara, is a difficult and heartbreaking blow.
Donned in full protective gear to protect himself from a treacherous mix of strong winds and stinging snow, Muhammad Ali Sadpara, together with two other colleagues, began his last push to scale the world’s second-tallest mountain peak.
The trio was attempting to reach the 8,611-meter (28,251 feet) Karakarum-2 summit, commonly known as K-2, without supplemental oxygen to make history. They, however, lost contact with the base camp when they were only 411 meters away from the snow-capped top.
Mountain lovers across the globe took to social media praying for their safety. Rescuers believed he is dead though the five-day operation launched was not formally over.
They had lost contact just hours after their colleague, Bulgarian Alpinist Atanas Skatov, fell into a crevasse and died.
His son Sajid was also a member of the team and the idea was for the father-and-son duo to summit K2 without oxygen, a feat never done before in winter. But Sajid had to turn back from a spot called the Bottleneck – also known as the “death zone”, some 300 metres from the top after he felt sick.
He has since helped military-led rescue teams scour the mountain for signs of his father and the other two men but there has been no trace of any of them. The military want to resume the search, weather permitting, using a high-altitude C-130 aircraft and infrared technology to spot possible shelters on the peak.
But Sajid doesn’t hold out much hope.
“I’m thankful to everyone organizing a search, but it’s unlikely that they are alive by now. So the search should be to recover their bodies,” he said last week.
Who was Mohammad Ali Sadpara and How Did He Start Climbing?
Ali Sadpara was born February 2, 1976 in a village called Sadpara, near Skardu in Gilgit-Baltistan. ‘Sadpara’ or ‘Satpara’ is famous for its porters who have helped countless summit seekers achieve their dreams as they carry backbreaking loads on Baltoro glacier — the gateway to the mighty K2 and other peaks. The life of a porter is as relentless and unforgiving as it is unrewarding. To carry many kilos of weight over jagged topography is a challenge in itself, even more so when it is the only means of livelihood for a person.
Having gotten married at the age of 19, his determination to provide for his family, drew him towards becoming a porter for foreign mountaineers, which was the best paid job available. With an iron will, he carried loads for climbers back and forth in the Karakoram mountain range, often for wages amounting to a mere three US dollars a day.
Muhammad Ali’s Sadpara’s rise has been, in his own words, “due to hard work and sheer luck”.
Starting out as a porter, he found his first proper climbing gig in 2004 when he accompanied an expedition to K2.
“One of my very first jobs was to deliver supplies to Pakistan Army posts leading to Siachen way back in the mid-1990s,” he said in an interview.
However, Sadpara’s real baptism by fire as a porter came about during the mid-1990s when Pakistan and India locked horns over the strategically vital Siachin Glacier — he was recruited by the army to carry heavy supplies for soldiers while under fire. The lessons of his childhood of being physically and mentally tough served him well to survive in such an unforgiving environment.
When work was short, Sadpara would go back to farming. In 2006, he climbed Gasherbrum II, his first 8,000m peak, without proper climbing gear. He once told, “I didn’t have the right boots, didn’t have a down jacket, let alone a down suit to protect me from the harsh cold. I had some second-hand climbing gear which I bought from the market in Skardu and repaired. But I still managed to climb and come back safely.”
A “jolly, good fellow”, Sadpara is often described by his peers as a tough as nails climber with a good-humored nature. The only Pakistani to have climbed eight of the 14 8,000 meter peaks, Sadpara came to prominence in local media when he, along with Spain’s Alex Txikon and Italy’s Simone Moro, made a world record with the first winter summit of Nanga Parbat in 2016.
As spiritually strong as he was physically tough, Sadpara had always been passionate about the mountains. During an interview he had said that “Whatever I have achieved is due to my love for the mountains.”
Romanian climber Alex Gvan remembers Sadpara for “a heart as large as K2. His everlasting smile and positive mindset were inspirational and contagious. Generous and altruist, always putting others first. He was a high altitude extraordinaire and one of the very greats. I was blessed to have met him,” said Gvan.
Mountaineering has always been regarded as a merciless endeavor and a supreme example of man versus nature. With his apparent death, Pakistan has lost a hero and a true brave heart.