GILGIT: Two Japanese climbers, who went missing while attempting to summit the 7,027-metre Spantik Peak, were located by Pakistan Army helicopters on Thursday.

A ground rescue team will attempt to reach Ryuseki Hiraoka and Atsushi Taguchi early on Friday and bring them back to the base camp.

Shigar Deputy Commissioner Waliullah Falahi told Dawn that the Japanese climbers went missing at Camp 2, situated at an altitude of 5,300 metres, on Tuesday while attempting to summit the Spantik Peak, also known as Golden Peak, situated between Shigar and Nagar districts of Gilgit-Baltistan.

According to sources at the base camp, two separate Japanese expedition teams, one consisting of two climbers and the other comprising seven climbers, had begun their attempts to climb the Spantik Peak separately from the base camp on the Shigar side. Although the teams shared base camp services, they had different strategies for ascending the peak.

Ryuseki Hiraoka and Atsushi Taguchi reached Camp 2 on Monday. They were climbing in Alpine style (without porters) and planned to ascend the peak directly from Camp 2. On Tuesday, the remaining members of the other Japanese climbing team also reached Camp 2.

Upon arriving at Camp 2, the seven-member Japanese team discovered that the two climbers, Hiraoka and Taguchi, were missing. The team suspended their expedition and started search for the missing climbers following their footprints and other traces.

However, they were unable to locate their fellow climbers and subsequently descended to the base camp, where they reported the incident to the tour operator and base camp staff on Wednesday.

Deputy Commissioner Falahi said that on Thursday morning an aerial search operation was launched to locate the missing climbers. Two Pakistan Army helicopters, crewed by high-altitude climbers and experts, took part in the search operation.

In the initial search round, the helicopters scouring the Spantik Peak area failed to locate the climbers. However, in the second round, the missing climbers were finally spotted at an altitude of approximately 5,000m.

But due to the challenging terrain and weather conditions, the helicopters were unable to land or hover in the area to rescue them.

“Three high-altitude climbers from Sadpara, Skardu, who were airlifted to the Spantik base camp by the army helicopters, will join the Japanese climbers already present at the base camp to embark on a rescue mission early Friday morning,” Mr Falahi said.

“The team will attempt to reach the location of the missing climbers and bring them to safety.”

He said all available resou­rces are being mobilised to locate and rescue the missing climbers.

The Base camp sources confirmed that the climbers have been spotted at an altitude of over 5,000m, but their condition remains unclear; it is unknown whether they are alive, injured, or dead.

They said the climbers’ condition will be clear when the rescue team reach their location.

Published in Dawn, June 14th, 2024

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