Spanish climber Sergio Mingote dies during K2 expedition

Spanish PM Pedro Sanchez paid tribute to climber Sergi Mingote (above) on Twitter.
Spanish PM Pedro Sanchez paid tribute to climber Sergi Mingote (above) on Twitter.PHOTO: INSTAGRAM

MADRID (AFP, REUTERS) - Mountaineer Sergio Mingote has died during a climb of K2, the second highest summit on the planet, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced on Saturday (Jan 16).

"Sad death of Sergi Mingote on K2. He wanted to keep on making history by being part of the first expedition to climb this mountain in winter and a tragic accident ended his life," Sanchez wrote on Twitter, describing him as a "great sportsman" and a personal friend.

News of his death came as a team from Nepal claimed the first-ever winter ascent of Pakistan's K2.

It was the last peak above 8,000m to be topped in wintertime.

Mingote fell down a crevasse as he attempted to make his way down to Base Camp, Karrar Haidri, secretary of the Alpine Club of Pakistan, told Reuters.

Around 49 climbers in several teams are on K2 making attempts on the summit, weather permitting.

Mingote, 49, had climbed seven mountains over 8,000m without supplemental oxygen in less than two years. 

First climbed in 1954 by Italian Achille Compagnoni, K2 is notorious for its sleep slopes and high winds, and in winter its surface becomes slick ice. 

Of the 367 people that had completed its ascent by 2018, 86 had died.

The Pakistani military is regularly called in to rescue climbers using helicopters, but the weather often makes that difficult.

The previous highest altitude achieved on K2 in winter was 7,750m by Denis Urubko and Marcin Kaczkan, set nearly two decades ago.

The sherpa group which reached the summit on Saturday had paused at a point 70m short of the peak to wait for each other before climbing into the world’s history books together at 4.56pm.

Located on the Pakistan China border, K2 is the only mountain over 8,000m that had not been summitted in the winter.

The group were named as Nirmal Purja, Gelje Sherpa, Mingma David Sherpa, Mingma G, Sona Sherpa, Mingma Tenzi Sherpa, Pem Chhiri Sherpa, Dawa Temba Sherpa, Kili Pemba Sherpa, and Dawa Tenjing Sherpa.

The coronavirus pandemic saw restrictions on travel severely impact the traditional summer mountaineering season in the Karakoram range and Pakistan in particular, which is home to five of the world’s 14 peaks over 8,000 metres.