ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — In what is shaping up as one of the worst mountaineering disasters in recent years, officials said Sunday that at least nine climbers were believed dead and five others were missing on K2, the world's second-highest peak.
The jagged, 28,250-foot mountain, which lies in the Karakoram segment of the Himalayan range in northern Pakistan, is considered by many mountaineers to be an even more formidable challenge than Mount Everest, the world's highest peak.
Reports were slow to emerge from the remote region near the Chinese border, but authorities in Pakistan said at least six climbers died when they were hit by avalanches during their descent Friday. Three others were believed dead in separate incidents on the mountain over the weekend, and five climbers from another expedition were reported missing.
Nationalities of all the climbers missing or believed killed on K2 were not known, but they included mountaineers from Serbia, South Korea, Pakistan, Norway, France, Nepal, the Netherlands and Ireland, officials said.
The climbing catastrophe was reminiscent of the Everest disaster recounted by Jon Krakauer in his best-selling book Into Thin Air. Eight people died on that ill-fated 1996 expedition.
Authorities in Skardu, the district where the peak is located, said that at least nine people were confirmed dead in avalanches that struck during their descent. Another district official, Musa Ali, said that four to five expeditions were on the mountain and that members were expected to reach a base camp today and provide a fuller account to authorities.
The climbers and their tour operators were in touch by satellite phone, officials said. The Pakistani army runs a mountain-rescue service that has plucked many climbers to safety, but it had no immediate information on the disaster.