The search for three missing climbers on a remote peak in Pakistan was called off yesterday when rescue teams could find no trace of the men. The trio was last seen on March 9 as they made their way toward the summit but what became of them after that remains a mystery.
Veteran climber Gerfried Goschl of Austria, along with Swiss mountaineer Cedric Hahlen and Pakistani guide Nisar Hussein were attempting to make the first winter ascent of Gasherbrum I, the 11th tallest peak in the world at 26,509 feet. On Thursday, March 8, they used a satellite phone to call their support team to inform them that they were just 1475 feet from the top. The climbers sounded optimistic about their chances as weather conditions improved around them and they put the more technically challenging aspects of the ascent behind them. Unfortunately, that was the last time that anyone ever talked to them.
The following day a second team of climbers made history by becoming the first to successfully climb Gasherbrum I in the winter. While on the summit, those climbers reported seeing Goschl, Hahlen and Hussein on the move and still trying to reach the top. It would be the last time that anyone would ever see the men alive.After the team failed to appear back in camp, other climbers on the mountain organized a search and rescue operation. Their efforts were hampered by poor weather conditions, however, and it was several days before helicopters could arrive on site to help them look. The search was ultimately abandoned when it failed to turn up any evidence of the whereabouts of the three men.
The Karakoram mountain range, where GI is located, is amongst the more challenging environments for climbers on the planet. Those challenges are only amplified further during the winter when the mountains are frequently buffeted by hurricane force winds and temperatures routinely plunge below -50ºF.
Goschl, Hahlen and Nisar spent nearly three months in that environment only to have their efforts tragically end this way.
[Photo credit: Uwe Gille via WikiMedia]