Tragic end on Spantik: Rescue operation called off for second Japanese climber days after his colleague’s body was found

The search operation to locate Japanese climbers Ryuseki Hiraoka and Atsushi Taguchi, who went missing on June 10 while climbing Spantik Peak, was called off on June 19 after one body was recovered.

The Pakistan Adventure Tour company confirmed that the search operation had been halted following the recovery of Hiraoka’s body.

The Gilgit-Baltistan civil administration confirmed the discovery on June 15.

The search for Taguchi continued with assistance from a team that included two Pakistan Army helicopters and high-altitude climbing experts. Despite extensive efforts, the search was stopped due to heavy snow in the mountains, which hampered progress. Reports indicated that the rescuers did their best, but no further traces of Taguchi could be found.

Spantik Peak, also known as the Golden Peak, is 7,027 meters above sea level and is considered relatively accessible and straightforward. The Japanese climbers were attempting to summit the peak in the Karakoram Range without porters.

Hiraoka, identified as the recovered climber, was 55 years old and a seasoned mountain guide who had climbed Mount Everest multiple times, according to his website.

The Japanese embassy in Islamabad confirmed that the body was of one of the missing climbers but did not provide further identification details. They confirmed that the rescuers found the body of Ryuseki Hiraoka on June 15.

Waliullah Falahi, a senior official involved in the nearly week-long rescue operation, confirmed the cessation of the search over the phone to Anadolu, as the officials did not find any signs of Taguchi, 36

“Though there are least chances of (his) survival, we still cannot declare him officially dead until his body is found,” he said. “He might have fallen into a crevice or (swept away) by an avalanche,” he added.

Another official, speaking on condition of anonymity, indicated that the climber is presumed dead.

The team plans to launch another search operation at the end of July or mid-August when the snow melts, which may reveal Taguchi’s body.

The Gilgit-Baltistan region is home to some of the world’s highest peaks, including K2. Several mountaineers have perished in recent years while attempting to conquer these challenging mountains.

Last August, a Japanese climber was killed, and another injured during an expedition in the region. In July 2021, renowned Pakistani climber Muhammad Ali Sadpara, Iceland’s John Snorri, and Chile’s Juan Pablo Mohr were killed while attempting to summit K2.

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