As is often true in the mountains, triumph has walked hand in hand with tragedy this winter in the Karakorum. The first winter ascent of K2 (8,848 meters), undertaken by a fully Nepalese team (with co-leader Nirmal “Nims” Purja summiting without bottled oxygen), has captivated viewers around the globe. Sadly, just prior to the ascent, the Spaniard Sergi Mingote, Co-Leader of the Seven Summits Treks (SST) team on K2, perished after a long fall while descending to Advanced Base Camp from Camp 1 (6,050 meters).
The 49-year-old Mingote was attempting to summit K2 without bottled oxygen this winter, and had already tackled seven 8000ers without O2. He was in the process of attempting to summit all 14 8,000-meter peaks in the same style, all within a 1,000-day push, a potentially record-breaking project he called the “14X1000 Catalonia Project” (the endeavor was interrupted due to COVID-19).
The Catalan climber accomplished a number of other noteworthy outdoor feats in his life, including crossings of the Gobi Desert and the Sahara, as well as a swim across the Strait of Gibraltar with the Paralympian Miguel Luque.
An avid cyclist, in 2020 Mingote completed a 7,000-kilometer bike ride through 10 European nations, from Barcelona to Greece, summiting 20 major peaks along the way. A member of the Socialists’ Party of Catalonia, Mingote also served as mayor of the small Catalan town Parets del Vallès from 2011 to 2018. He resigned from office to focus on mountaineering full-time.
SST Team Leader Chhang Dawa Sherpa posted on Facebook:
“Unfortunately we lost Sergi! Best climber and very good friend of us … Alex Gavan, Tamara [Lunger] and two other Polish climbers gave him help in ABC, we sent medical team from Basecamp but unfortunately could not save him anymore. We were informed by unexpected movement on his GPS tracker and could see he made a big fall, members at the site quickly confirmed the accident, but couldn’t do much to help him anymore. Deep condolences.”
Meanwhile, search and rescue teams located the body of Russian-American Alex Goldfarb on Pastore Peak (6,209 meters) on Monday, after an extensive search. The 56-year-old had been missing since Saturday, January 16th. He and his Hungarian partner Zoltán Szlankó were using Pastore as acclimatization for a winter attempt on Broad Peak (8,051 meters).
During Goldfarb and Szlankó’s attempt, the former reportedly continued alone up the mountain through a maze of crevasses, despite his partner Szlankó’s requests that they turn back in the face of the treacherous conditions.
In his last radio contact with Base Camp, Goldfarb reported that he had reached high camp on the shoulder of Pastore and was planning a summit attempt. He indicated that he would return by evening of Saturday, 16th January (the same day Nims Purja and other Sherpa climbers summited K2).
When he did not return and could not be reached by phone or radio, a search team went into action. Icelandic climber John Snorri Sigurjonsson and Pakistanis Muhammad Ali Sadpara and Sajid Sadpara, all on nearby K2, flew in to help Szlankó and others search. A ground search and drone search turned up no leads, but helicopter passes on Monday found Goldfarb’s body. It seemed apparent that the climber perished after a long fall.
On the GoFundMe set up to facilitate search and rescue attempts for his father, Goldfarb’s son Levi left a touching eulogy, detailing his father’s efforts volunteering to treat COVID-19 patients and his successes as a Professor of Medicine at Harvard. Goldfarb reportedly published more than “70 peer-reviewed publications and several books, the most recent of which was the first Critical Care Medicine book to include a chapter on COVID.” Levi mentioned his father’s ascents of Lenin Peak (7,134m/23,406ft) and Khan Tengri (7,010m/22,999ft). On the latter summit, the elder Goldfarb reportedly saved a fellow climber’s life.
The eulogy concludes: “If asked what his greatest achievement was, Alex would no doubt mention his family. We knew that he would do anything for us—we never had to worry, because he would shoulder any burden for those he loved. He was a great man, and I am proud to be his son. I hope I can one day be a fraction of the man he was. Baruch Dayan Emet.”