The latest deaths further mar a treacherous winter season after two climbers died on its slopes since January, and a third mountaineer was lost during an acclimatising mission on a nearby peak.

Mohammad Ali Sadpara poses for a photo with a member of Alpine Club of Pakistan in Islamabad, Pakistan in this undated photograph.
Mohammad Ali Sadpara poses for a photo with a member of Alpine Club of Pakistan in Islamabad, Pakistan in this undated photograph. (Reuters)

Pakistani officials said three climbers missing on the K2 mountain had died, calling off an extraordinary rescue mission that had involved the military and international mountaineers since the group lost contact on February 5.

Muhammad Ali Sadpara, 45, of Pakistan, John Snorri, 47, of Iceland, and Juan Pablo Mohr, 33, of Chile, were last seen just 300 metres short of the summit of K2, the world’s second-highest mountain. 

It is believed the group reached the summit but encountered a problem on the way down.

“So far we were searching and hoping to find them alive, but today we have officially declared them dead, so that will stop,” Raja Nasir Ali Khan, minister of Minister for Tourism for Gilgit-Baltistan, the northern region where the climbers went missing.

The search for the bodies of the climbers will continue, Khan said.

READ MORE: Pakistan's Ali Sadpara: The man who whispered to mountains

Mohammad Ali Sadpara (L) poses for a photo with a member of Alpine Club of Pakistan in Islamabad, Pakistan in this undated photograph.
Mohammad Ali Sadpara (L) poses for a photo with a member of Alpine Club of Pakistan in Islamabad, Pakistan in this undated photograph. (Reuters)

Tributes pour

The three were last seen by Sadpara’s son, 20-year-old Sajid, who had to turn around because of an oxygen supply malfunction. 

“My family and I have lost a kindhearted person and the Pakistani nation has lost a brave and great adventurous individual who was passionate about climbing," Sajid said.

The search operation included Pakistani military helicopters flying up and down the mountain, and an F-16 plane to photograph the ground to look for clues to where they might have taken shelter. 

Extremely low temperatures and gusting winds make it nearly impossible to survive on K2 for more than few days.

Tributes to Ali Sadpara poured in on Thursday, and his death was the top trend on Twitter in Pakistan. 

Pop singer Ali Zafar released a song as a tribute to the climber, who many credited with helping put Pakistani climbers on the world stage.

Abrar-ul Haq, another singer and politician, pledged to see through Sadpara’s dream of building a school in his village, located in a remote part of the country’s mountainous north not far from K2.

The latest deaths further mar what has been a bittersweet winter season on K2.

Two other climbers died trying to scale K2 this winter: Bulgarian Atanas Skatov and Spanish climber Sergio Mingote. 

And in January, American Alex Goldfarb-Rumyantzev died on a mountain nearby.

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, 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.

READ MORE: Three climbers lost on K2 mountain feared dead

Source: TRTWorld and agencies