Three climbers lost on Pakistan's K2 are believed to have died on the mountain, a Pakistan official said Thursday, more than a week after the group went missing while trying to summit the world's second highest peak.
Climbers John Snorri from Iceland, Juan Pablo Mohr from Chile and Muhammad Ali Sadpara of Pakistan lost contact with base camp on February 5, sparking a massive rescue effort that included military helicopters and planes.
"All the weather experts, climbers, and experts from the Pakistan army have reached the conclusion that a human being cannot live for that long in such harsh weather. That's why we are announcing that they are no more," said Raja Nasir Ali Khan, a provincial minister for tourism in Gilgit-Baltistan, where K2 is located.
Khan said the search for the bodies would continue.
"My family have lost a kind father and the Pakistan nation has lost a great, brave, and experienced mountaineer," Sajid Ali Sadpara -- son of Muhammad Ali Sadpara -- told reporters after the announcement was made.
"Words will never suffice to express the pain that we now face," relatives of the 34 year-old Mohr in Santiago said in a brief statement.
They added that the family "in one voice will give thanks" to Pakistani searchers when rescue operations have ended.
The latest deaths further mar what has been a bittersweet winter season on K2.
Two climbers had already died on its treacherous slopes since January, and a third mountaineer was lost during an acclimatising mission on a nearby peak.
History was made, however, with a team of Nepali climbers reaching the top -- sparking jubilation at home.
Dozens of climbers have headed to K2 in the past few months, attempting to be the first to make a winter ascent of what is known in mountaineering circles as "the savage mountain".
Conditions on K2 are harsh -- winds can blow at more than 200 kilometres per hour (125 miles per hour) and temperatures can drop to minus 60 degrees Celsius (minus 76 Fahrenheit).
With Pakistan's borders open and few other places to go due to the coronavirus pandemic, this winter an unprecedented four teams totalling around 60 climbers have converged on the mountain.
Unlike Mount Everest, which has been scaled by thousands of climbers young and old, K2 is much less travelled due to its tough conditions.