On July 9, 65-year-old Scottish climber Rick Allen left his three teammates on Broad Peak in Pakistan’s Karakorum Range to make a solo push on a new route up a steep ice cliff. He didn’t return, and the other climbers assumed he had died on his way up the 26,414-foot mountain. But Sandy Allan, Allen’s long-time climbing partner, wasn’t ready to give up on him.
Nearby, at K2 base camp, Bartek Bargiel was preparing to use his high-altitude DJI Mavic Pro drone to film his brother, Andrzej, skiing off the world’s second highest peak. The Mavic Pro is supposed to have a 16,404-foot ceiling, but Bartek had already flown it higher than 27,500 feet. Allan asked Bartek if he’d use the drone to scan the area where Allen was last seen climbing.
As Bartek’s drone launched on July 10, a cook for a Japanese team on Broad Peak spotted what he thought was an abandoned backpack while looking through a telescope. Then it started to move. Bartek focused the drone’s camera on the area and found Allen, seemingly in distress.
Climbers David Roeske and Fredrik Sträng, already at Broad Peak’s 22,965-foot Camp 3, went to investigate. They found Allen, who was alive despite a 100-foot fall off an ice cliff, and helped him back to the high camp. Soon Tenji Sherpa, who was supporting a team from Washington-based Summit Climb, arrived along with other climbers and helped Allen back to base camp on July 12. He had been alone on the mountain for over 36 hours. Allen was badly dehydrated and had a bit of frostbite, but he was largely unscathed.