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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Japanese Climbers Missing in Gilgit Baltistan Amid Harsh Conditions

Two Japanese climbers are missing on Spantik Peak in Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan.

Ryuseki Hiraoka and Atsushi Taguchi, climbing Alpine style without porters, were last seen at Camp 2, situated at 5,300 meters, between the Shigar and Nagar districts of Gilgit-Baltistan on Monday. When a seven-member Japanese expedition team reached Camp 2 the next day, they found it empty and subsequently reported the missing climbers to authorities after returning to the base camp.

Search and Rescue Efforts

Initial ground rescue efforts were unable to locate the climbers. Evidence found at Camp 2 suggested they might have fallen. Local rescuers, alongside Japanese climbers, continued the search using drones on Thursday.

A search helicopter later spotted traces of the climbers at around 5,500 meters, between Camp 2 and Camp 3, but it remains unclear whether they are still alive. Waliullah Falahi, a local official, mentioned that “we have identified the possible location of the climbers. However, we can’t confirm exactly if they are there. The climbers’ health status remains uncertain.”

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Hiraoka, an experienced mountain guide, and Taguchi, who has previously summited K2 and Manaslu, embarked on their summit push from Camp 2 without ropes or additional support. Spantik, also known as Golden Peak, is considered one of the more accessible 7,000-meter peaks in Pakistan and is a popular choice for climbers either as a primary goal or for acclimatization before tackling higher peaks.

The second Japanese team, upon discovering the climbers missing, aborted their own summit attempt and initiated a search. The Deputy Commissioner of Shigar reported that the rescue operation had pinpointed a possible location at approximately 5,500 meters. However, the specifics of what the search helicopter identified were not detailed.GV

The situation has garnered significant attention given the climbing credentials of the missing individuals and the challenging nature of the ascent. The Alpine Club of Pakistan, through its secretary Karrar Haidri, has been actively involved in coordinating the rescue efforts. He emphasized that the climbers were “ascending quickly with minimal gear and no fixed camps,” a testament to their skill and experience but also a factor complicating rescue operations.

Climbing in Gilgit-Baltistan

Gilgit-Baltistan is renowned for its challenging peaks, including five of the world’s 14 mountains over 8,000 meters. In 2023, over 8,900 foreign climbers visited the region, with the climbing season typically running from early June to late August. The region’s challenging terrain and unpredictable weather often make rescue operations difficult.

As the search continues, the global climbing community watches with bated breath, hoping for the safe return of Hiraoka and Taguchi. The outcome of this mission will likely prompt further discussions on the risks associated with high-altitude climbing and the protocols in place for such rescue operations.