A rescue attempt is underway in the frozen heart of the Karakoram to save the injured Spanish Climber Oscar Perez. The trouble started seven days ago when Perez and climbing partner Alvaro Novellón were involved in an unspecified accident while attempting a new route on Latok II (7,125 meters). Perez suffered a broken arm and leg in the incident, and it was decided that Novellón should descend and look for help. Upon his return to base camp, the call went out around the world, via satellite phone and Internet, to any and all climbers who could get to the mostly empty Karakoram and assist in the rescue. Despite an outpouring of responses, including a team of Spanish alpinists who are currently en-route to the Karakorum and a plea to the Pakistani government for the use of a helicopter, it appears that these efforts will take too long to be of much assistance.
Which leaves the fate of Perez in the hands of the only man left in Pakistan with enough strength, ability, acclimatization, experience, and courage to carry out a rescue of this difficulty: Fabrizio Zangrilli.
Readers may recall that Zangrilli is a U.S.-based Italian climber who was leading one of the first commercially guided trips up K2 this season. Despite having just descended after being thwarted by bad weather, Zangrilli has already headed back up into the breach with a frost bitten but determined Novellón as his guide. Their destination is a small ledge on an almost vertical wall some 6,200 meters above sea level where Perez awaits with nothing but a sleeping bag, and severely limited reserves of food and water. It’s estimated that Zangrilli and Novellón won’t reach their destination for another three days, by which time it may very well be too late. For now, climbers around the world can only wait and Hope. Godspeed boys, vaya con Dios, che il Signore sia con te.—Tetsuhiko Endo
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- Nat Geo Expeditions