Body of one of two missing Japanese climbers found at Spantik peak

Published June 15, 2024
A combination photo of missing Japanese mountaineers Atsushi Taguchi (L) and Ryuseki Hiraoka. — Photo: Sat Wat
A combination photo of missing Japanese mountaineers Atsushi Taguchi (L) and Ryuseki Hiraoka. — Photo: Sat Wat

The body of one of the two missing Japanese climbers was found at Spantik peak in Shigar Valley on Saturday during a rescue operation, while the search for the other climber is underway.

The two Japa­nese climbers went missing during their attempt to summit 7,027-metre Spa­ntik Peak, after ground rescuers remained unable to trace them in an initial attempt on Wednesday.

Ryuseki Hiraoka and Atsushi Taguchi climbing in Alpine style without porters had reached camp 2, situated at 5,300m altitude, between Shigar and Nagar districts of Gilgit-Baltistan on Monday, but when another seven-member Japanese expedition team reached the camp the next day, they were not there.

Subse­qu­e­­ntly, they suspended their expedition and returned to the base camp to inform officials.

Shigar Deputy Commissioner Waliullah Falahi confirmed to Dawn.com today that one of the climbers had been found dead. “The nine-member rescue team recovered one climber and kept it at [a] safe place. Now they [are] searching for [the] other climber,” he said.

Naiknaam Karim from tour operator Adventure Tours Pakistan also corroborated that the body was found and a search was underway for the other climber.

The body was unidentified as of the filing of this report.

DC Falahi told Dawn.com that nine high-altitude climbers, including four Japanese climbers, initiated the ground rescue operation on Friday morning. The nine-member rescue team had reached camp 2 at 5,300m altitude on Friday evening and had stayed there overnight.

On Saturday morning, the rescue team members descended a 300m crevice in an attempt to rescue the missing climbers. Pakistan Army helicopters spotted the pair and identified the potential location on Thursday.

The body was found 300 meters below camp 3.

“The rescue teams are doing everything possible to support the search operation and ensure a swift and safe conclusion,” said a spokesperson for the Shigar DC’s office. “We understand the difficulty of the situation and are working closely with the Japanese authorities to ensure a successful outcome.”

According to the Shigar DC, the Japanese Embassy in Islamabad and the Japanese consulate in Karachi have been informed of the developments and Pakistani authorities are working closely with them to ensure a swift and safe conclusion to the search operation.

Karim Shah Nizari, a local mountain guide, earlier told Dawn.com that the survival of the missing climbers became impossible with each passing hour in such circumstances.

He speculated that they were in a crevice in the area, or were hit by an avalanche. “The missing Japanese climbers were attempting in Alpine style, climbing in the area on the slopes […] sometimes needs fixed ropes,” he explained.

“These slopes are unstable after getting 4 inches of fresh snow, [which] makes it deadly. Spantik peak, like other Karakorum peaks, [is] prone to unstable weather,” he said.

Nizari added that mountaineers in Pakistan were praying for their safe rescue, but the circumstances in which they have gone missing makes survival very unlikely.

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