John Snorri summited K2 and Broad Peak in just seven days and has since become recognized in Iceland as the country’s foremost mountaineer. This is the result of a single person performing at the height of his physical and mental capabilities.
Muhammad Ali Sadpara is a Pakistani high-altitude mountaineer. He was part of the team that successfully achieved the first ever winter summit on Nanga Parbat in 2016. Ali successfully climbed four eight-thousanders in a calendar year and a total of eight in his career.
Sajid Sadpara is best known for being the son of Ali Sadpara. His first summit was K2 in summer in 2019. The father son duo teamed up with Icelandic mountaineer, John Snorri, and Chilean mountaineer, Juan Pablo Mohr Prieto for a joint K-2 Winter 2021 mission on February 5th, 2021.
Pasang Kaji Sherpa
He’s a businessman, entrepreneur, expert climber, and father. Pasang has summited Everest 5 times and was recently in Syria helping civilians who were caught in the war. Risking his own life and his safety to help others is a common occurrence for him.
He’s an award winning filmmaker and has been on Mt. Everest eight times. Elia is one of the few people on Earth who can consistently shoot above 8000m. His signature Everest imagery has garnered millions of views online been seen on Discovery Channel, BBC, ESPN, HBO, NBC, Outside Television and many more.
K2 – First Winter Ascent
John Snorri, Ali Sadpara and his son Sajid teamed up to attempt to become the first men in history to summit K2 in winter. On the night of February 5th, both John and Ali disappeared near the summit of K2, along with fellow climber JP Mohr of Chile, and were never seen again.
Our teammates are pronounced dead
My heart is with Sajid Sadpara and the immediate families as today Iceland’s John Snorri, Chile’s Juan Pablo Mohr and Pakistan’s Ali Sadpara are declared dead.
‘The overwhelming love and support for the 'national hero Ali Sadpara' has given immense strength to me, my younger brothers, my sister, and my mother. My family and I have lost a kindhearted person and the Pakistani nation has lost a brave and great adventurous individual who was passionate about the Pakistani flag to the point of insanity.’
‘When I returned to Skardu and met the media, I said they went missing in the death zone and chances of their survival are minimal and more lives must not be placed in danger during the search.’
‘I want to thank all Pakistanis who sent good wishes for my father in this difficult time. Your wishes raised the hopes of the mountaineers who come to Pakistan.’
Rest In Peace my dear friends. 💔
Trash on K2
When will we learn? Man’s footprint at high camp 2 on K2.
It’s disheartening to witness these kinds of images because it really wouldn’t take much for humans to clean up after themselves.
Understandably, K2 is incredibly hostile. It is notorious for deaths on descent and so the idea of picking up trash and cleaning up the mess seems unfathomable. But this is no excuse.
I’m not an expedition leader, or logistics company, but if I was, I’d utilize some of the profits to protect these environments and insist and enforce policies that would honor the sanctity of these spaces.
I’ve read some comments online excusing the mess of ropes as one example, claiming: this is K2 not Everest. My argument is: one life lost is one too many. How many more need to die unnecessarily? How much would it cost to to coordinate one consistent rope color as an example? Isn’t ones life worth it? Money should be allocated as part of the expedition permits and fees to clean up these mountains, not only to protect Nature and our beautiful Earth, but to protect climbers from unnecessary fatal falls.
There’s a lot of money passing through the pockets of the leaders/company owners in this business and some of it should be reinvested to keep these mountains clean and safe. It really wouldn’t take much.
We are better than this and we need to do better.
The unsung heroes
The unsung heroes behind Ali, John and Sajid’s expedition. Meet Mohsin and Shahid, the backbone and foundation of the Iceland/Pakistan expedition. You can learn a lot about a man by the way those who loved him respond to his absence.
Atanas Skatov accident
Lakpa Dendi, on the mighty K2. Full write up in my blog. Lakpa was the last person to see Bulgarian climber Atanas Skatov alive. These photographs were taken on our descent, hours before John, Ali and JP were reported missing.
John Snorri at the foot of the mighty K2.
The moment I landed at K2, John was immediately whisked away on a rescue mission, searching for a missing climber who attempted to solo a nearby peak. That’s the kind of man he was. Brave, bold and compassionate.
John loved Pakistan. He loved her people. He adored Ali, Sajid and the staff and treated them like family.
He was so excited about this image and continuously said: when I summit K2, I see this image on a billboard at the Iceland airport.
We were tent neighbors. We laughed together. Planned the documentary together. Had deep discussions about life together, but what impressed me the most about John was his heart. His capacity for empathy, his deep care for those around him and mostly his love for his wife Lina and his 6 children.
We filmed a very touching scene before the summit push of John speaking softly and lovingly about his family. He showed me the text messages his children sent him cheering him on. Emojis of all kinds, ❤️ ‘s and 😘. I was deeply moved by the love and support from his incredible family that he spoke so highly of.
I’ve been pulled in many directions since we descended and I realize I’m not ok. I thought I was, because I had to be, but the endorphins and adrenaline have faded and I feel empty inside. I’ve lost 10-15 lbs and no matter how much I try to nourish my body it just feels like it’s withering away. Perhaps it’s the extreme sadness, perhaps it’s my body screaming for me to breathe. I don’t know, but it hurts like hell. He was a gem of a human and one of the kindest and most incredible humans I’ve ever met.
Our time was brief, but it was profound. It was an honor to be accepted into the inner circle to feel the magic of what John created for Iceland and Pakistan.
I keep fantasizing about the ultimate survival story. If anyone can, it’s John Snorri.
Still praying for the miracle.
Ali Sadpara’s last portrait
Ali Sadpara - my last portrait taken in our tent right before the final summit push on K2.
‘K2 is King of Mountains’ he would constantly tell me. Ali had the deepest respect for the crown jewel of Pakistan’s Karakoram. Every time he spoke of his vast experience on 8000m peaks in winter, I listened intently and absorbed every word.
Pasang Kaji and I were only with Ali, John and Sajid for 3 weeks, but what was evident was the respect and love these men had for one another. There was no employer / employee relationship - they were a team. They were equal. They cared deeply for one another and respected each other tremendously.
Winter K2 was a common dream that belonged to Ali, John and Sajid. As John constantly put it: it’s Iceland working in partnership with Pakistan - to celebrate Pakistan.
Ali knew everyone at basecamp and was adored by so many.
As Sajid put it: ‘My father is like a Snow Leopard. He moves incredibly fast in the mountains.’ He commanded your respect for his incredible talent and won over your heart with his charm and beautiful soul.
Whether dancing at basecamp, joking around with John and the kitchen staff - his smile, charm, warm heart, sense of humor and one of a kind spirit will always be what defines this great man.
Ali is one of Pakistan’s greatest heroes and his pioneering accomplishments in the throne-room of the heavens will always be remembered.
Here again – witness to tragedy
It’s hard to believe that I’m here again - a witness to tragedy on the world’s tallest peaks.
I was here to tell one story and in the end, a very different one unfolded in front of my lens.
I was home in Ottawa watching online as all of the teams arrived in Islamabad. I flipped my life upside-down last minute, abandoned all I had on my plate, put my producer hat on and moved serious mountains with some high powered friends. Within 4-5 days, we pulled a documentary and expedition plan together to support John Snorri, Ali Sadpara and his son Sajid. They’re Pakistan’s local heroes and I was willing to do whatever it would take to help tell their story - for Pakistan.
One of the reasons @sherpapk and I were late arriving to K2 is because after we did our rapid acclimatization in Nepal, I landed with... get this... Covid-19! 🤯
It kicked my a** for a week. We shut the project down for the 2nd time, this time because of me. After a quick week-long recovery and multiple negative tests, we boldly decided that despite being late, and me being mostly recovered, with the help of many people high up specific chains of my own understanding, we’d drop ourselves into K2 basecamp by air thanks to our incredible partners and push our limits to the edge to safely catch up and attempt to document team Iceland/Pakistan’s ascent.
For three weeks on K2 it was a non stop roller coaster ride of chasing stories from the moment we arrived.
John and I clicked right away and by day one I was filming him assist in a search and rescue operation on a nearby peak. We hit it off and it was non stop flow ever since. Pk and I never really got off the rollercoaster. Two ‘summit pushes’ for us, an ambitious plan to follow three of the strongest climbers while filming, mostly unacclimatized, minus one support HAP - and we just did what we had to do to support these three great men.
In the end... here we are. I’m exhausted. I’m in high powered go-mode, trying to do all of the right things for those that are more important.
I’ve just wrapped production and we’ve flown out of basecamp to safety.
Sadpara family to the rescue
Imtiaz and Akbar, Ali Sadpara’s cousin and nephew arrived at basecamp a little more than 24 hours ago to assist in bringing Sajid Sadpara down from the base of K2.
It was an emotional arrival just after dark as Sajid, who turned back at the bottleneck due to an oxygen failure, returned alive after a monumental descent to basecamp without his Father Ali.
Imtiaz and and Akbar are heading up K2 today, boots on the hill, by their own will, to see if they can possibly locate John, Ali and JP.
‘Ali is a brother to us. A hero for Pakistan. We will climb as high as we can within our limits. There is hope, but we know the reality of the mountain, especially in winter.’
Akbar then said:
‘When Ali left basecamp, he had the Pakistani flag with him. Everytime he climbs, he has the mountain close to his chest, Pakistan is in his veins and blood. He’s our hero.’
These brave men are volunteers, who chose to undertake this mission. They know the mountain better than anyone and tell us they’ll respect the mountain, the weather and their limits.
Search and rescue with the military
Yesterday, I embarked on one of the SAR missions with the pilots who identified a few potential leads that synced up with the yellow and red down suits that John and Ali were wearing. From a great distance, it proved to be a solid lead, but unfortunately with a telephoto lens, close fly by and expanded view later on a laptop showed that these leads unfortunately turned out to be a similarly coloured tent, mat and sleeping bag.
Our team is missing high on K2
The last number of days on K2 have been incredibly difficult.
Firstly, John Snorri and Ali Sadpara have not been seen or heard from since the morning of the 5th. They were last seen by Ali’s son Sajid at the bottleneck late morning when Sajid turned around due to an oxygen regulator problem. He is now with us safe at basecamp.
PK, Fazel and I (minus Jalal) made a push from basecamp to camp 3 over 3 days after being here for 2.5 weeks. We suffered, but kept pushing upwards, loaded like mules again, gathering footage, trying to catch up with John, Ali and Sajid. We intersected with them at camp 2. The plan was to follow/film them as far as we could if we were strong enough from camp 3.
We eventually were below camp 3 when we learned there was a serious miscommunication about the extra oxygen we purchased, which unacclimatized was our lifeline, so we descended to Japanese camp 3 and spent the night listening to the brutal radio communications of climbers sandwiched into tents at high camp 3.
We knew we were in harms way without ample oxygen so we packed it in. While descending, a Bulgarian climber, Atanas, flew off K2 right over our heads and plummeted to his death. I saw it all and yelled in horror. My heart goes out to his lady who accompanied him here to K2. Rest In Peace, Atanas.
We are praying for a miracle over here.
Anyone attempting K2, especially in winter, should be nervous, because one mistake up there will cost you your life.
The rock fall scares me. The tattered fixed lines scare me. The jumbled mess of old ropes scares me. The weather scares me. The wind scares me. Holding my camera in the extreme cold scares me and just about every other aspect of this mountain elevates my fear compass and keeps me incredibly high alert.
This little film project was shut down twice and revived three times. We could have quit numerous times, but we kept pushing and we kept problem solving. We were resilient. We were determined and we believed in team Iceland/Pakistan.
Pasang Kaji Sherpa and I are far behind everyone else on the mountain in terms of acclimatization so we’re setting very realistic expectations about how high we will climb. We’ve put together a plan to try to move as high as possible to ideally have our ascent intersect with John, Ali and Sajid’s. At the end of the day: our mission is to gather as much footage as possible.
For me: returning home safely matters most. I’m excited to take a look up there and do my best to bring back some images.
The only little hiccup at the moment is that one of our team members isn’t well so I don’t know what’s going to happen. Otherwise, we’re set and ready to climb.
Hoping for the best here. I’ve done all I can for this project and to be ready for a final push.
Wish us luck!
His winter experience on 8000m peaks is unparalleled.
I sat and listed to him tell incredible stories of combatting -60c temperatures in winter while attempting and succeeding on 8000’ers over the years.
The repeated stories of getting frostbite due to the extremely harsh climate were especially impressive considering he still has 10 fingers and 10 toes. He recounted how one year after an especially difficult winter expedition he returned home with frostbite on his fingers and used a sheep stomach in combination with appropriately warmed water to heal his extremities.
Ali’s life is the mountains and I hope that his profile is raised even higher, beyond the realm of the great mountaineers who are all familiar with his reputation as one of the greats mountaineers of our time.
Meet Shahid, assistant to our incredible Pakistani chef Mohsin.
After shooting hero shots of each of our team members with the epic K2 backdrop just after twilight, Shahid, who always makes a comedic appearance into the dining tent, often with just his head appearing through a small gap via the tent zipper, emerged in the sub-zero weather and I encouraged him to pose in front of K2.
I absolutely love that his instinct was to put on a big smile with two thumbs up, reminding the rest of us not to take ourselves so seriously.
Like Nepal and many other countries I’ve visited, the local people working some of the toughest jobs tend to have the most joyful spirits.
A failed attempt
On December 5th, 2020, team Iceland/Pakistan, comprised of John Snorri, Ali Sadpara and his son Sajid, arrived alone at K2 basecamp with their team of local Pakistani support staff.
Since then, they’ve spent 11 nights up high, spread out over 4 rotations. They’re quite possibly the most acclimated team on the mountain.
It was incredible to watch them almost effortlessly climb direct to camp 3 in one push from basecamp to position themselves for the narrow summit window. With weather conditions being as brutal and brief as they are in winter, I’m learning K2 in winter requires this type of bold, intelligent, strategic aggression in order to make use of the tiny weather window opportunities.
We were certain they had summited and said our goodbyes to K2, only to later have our descent intersect with theirs just below camp 1.
Ali and John’s combined understanding of winter climbing on 8000’ers is impressive to watch. Ali is operating on a whole other level and it’s an honor to be in his presence to learn, listen and observe as they aim for the top.
I took this photo at the base of K2 after their attempt on the summit on the 25th.
Pasang Kaji Sherpa
Pasang Kaji Sherpa standing beneath the mighty K2 a few nights back.
The real talk behind this small film project and expedition is that it has been the most difficult logistical / producing challenge I’ve ever undertaken. Mostly because of the last minute nature of the filming efforts. Every single day since we began planning has been filled with obstacles and problems we needed to resolve.
Our expedition was shut down twice for various reasons and we figured, we were so deep into it that regardless of being late, we might as well give it a shot. And here we are.
Pasang Kaji has moved mountains to help get us here as have many others. We’re grateful for everyone who helped us along the way.
Chasing the acclimated
Jalal and Fazel, our Pakistani support climbers, are tough as nails. They’re everything I’ve read and heard about: strong, resilient and kind -very tough exteriors contrasted with very warm interiors.
An impossible mission
On the 23rd of January, John Snorri, Ali and Sajid Sadpara received a weather report that there was a tiny summit window.
The decided to go for it, in superhuman style, and climb direct from basecamp to camp 3 in one push. Where did that leave us? Sh*t out of luck!
Rather than watch the entire project come to an abrupt end, PK and I went all in, knowing we were not acclimatized and knowing we had no chance of ever coming close to keeping up with them.
We loaded ourselves up like mules and left at 8pm. Jalal and Fazel helped carry some of our gear for us including oxygen.
I never imagined that the first steps I would take on this magnificent mountain would be in the pitch dark. What we were doing was impossible, but we did it anyway and gave it our all.
Both of us suffered immensely that night, each carrying two bottles of oxygen, personal gear + camera gear. We just pushed through the pain all night long.
We climbed for over 24 hrs straight and reached a point where we decided to pack it in.
We spent a brutal night in a tent like sardines in a can. I couldn’t help but laugh at the image of 4 men piled into a small tent. The next morning, we assumed John, Ali and Sajid had made the summit. For us, it was over, but we felt good having made the effort.
This is the face of giving it all you have. We preferred to have tried, knowing we had no chance, than to have wondered ‘what if’.
This was several days ago. And team Iceland/Pakistan never made it.
Meet Ali Sadpara
Ali’s reputation speaks for itself. His experience is vast on 8000m, both in summer and winter. His accomplishments are legendary including a first winter ascent of Nanga Parbat.
Meet John Snorri
John Snorri from Iceland, having a bit of fun during a good weather window at K2 basecamp.
Meet Sajid Sadpara
Meet Sajid Sadpara, Ali Sadpara’s son. He’s attempting K2 with his father and fellow teammate, John Snorri from Iceland.
Arrival to K2!
And there she is, towering high above, K2.
Traveling with the official support of ISPR
PK Sherpa and I with Hassan Bin Aftab, our man on the ground, our most trusted ally in Pakistan. He's the man moving mountains behind the scenes. Without him and Vanessa O'Brien, none of this would be possible.
We’re in Pakistan and headed to K2!
I’m thrilled to be accompanied by my climbing partner and dear friend Pasang Kaji Sherpa. We’re both excited to be storytelling around Pakistan’s local climbing hero Mohammed Ali Sadpara, his son Sajid and Iceland’s John Snorri.