Spantik Karakoram Pakistan Expedition ReportSpantik / Spongtik or Spangtik, literally means small grassy land, is situated in minerals rich Shigar valley of Northern Areas Pakistan, closed to the Rakaposhi and Haramosh massif, surrounded by Chogolugma, Kerolugma and Barpu glaciers. Peaks around Spantik are Golden poprash, Haramosh, 7600m, Rakaposhi 7788m, Diran 7266m, Laila 6660m, Sasi Syar, 6048m, Bashkai Peak 7031m.
We had been planning a trip for some time and had committed partners with plans to climb in mid July. Due to job changes one couldn't come. So we were four partners. In spite of our best efforts on the web I could not get more, so we decided to go ahead. It was not a problem since I had good past climb experience organized by a reputed local outfitter and knew many people in the area.
We flew to Islamabad, Pakistan on July 10th 2007 landing at2:30 pm. Next day luckily, we flew to Skardu, the gateway to the largest concentration of mountains in the world, by 10:30 am. The next afternoon I arrived at the trailhead, a small village called Apo Ali Gond, Arindo Shigar, (3,050’). The trail begins in the valley but soon emerges into grassland and open fields of Arindo village. The women were out in the fields weeding. It was 8 hours walk on the trail; within half hours we were on the snout of Chogolungma Glacier, for about one hour we found our way on the glacier to the right side of the moraine and walked mostly upward, till we reached the camp site of Munpighoro. On the trail there were excellent views of the Rong Kush Kun Peak to the south and numerous peaks and towers of the lower Chogo Lungma range.
The next morning we set out for another long walk of 8 hours to Bolocho, a small camp site of about 10 tents maximum, with a clean drinking water source nearby. It was the most pleasant day of trekking of a moderate trail and panoramic views throughout the day.
We left Bolocho campsite early morning, walking on the stony glacier’s traversing zigzag path for about 40 minutes before reaching the central moraine of Chogoloongma glacier, We zigzagged to avoid the open crevasses and going all the way up to our camp site on the Chogolungma glacier close to the SE ridge of Spongtik Peak. At there we had excellent towering views of Kapaltang Kun and the snowy pyramid Peaks including Laila Peak and many other peaks.
There was significant snow on the SE side. That night at least 18 " of snow fell there and that was the latest significant snowfall that our experienced guide could remember.
Enjoying fresh delicious curry, cheesecake and other delights out of the kitchen tent we then had 2 days of rest and preparation for summit! We organized loads for a summit attempt and prayed for a favorable weather.
With two days of rest we started up the face. We got a 5 am start to take advantage of the crusts. We went up on the right side to avoid the deeper snow in the middle. We made it to about 15,500' carrying and camped on a rock outcrop with just enough room for a tent. Time was short so we set our goal to reach the next day.
Following day we left at dawn, 5 am, the snow was firm on the underlying ice and of varying thickness. Crampons made it possible. Careful route selection was a help. We reached the first ridge at 2 pm. approximate altitude 18000'. The angle got steep near the top, maybe 40 degrees so we had to be careful. We were stuck up there for the next two days, owing to bad weather as we could not go either. Heavy snowfall overnight and poor visibility the next day gave a taxing and very tiring descent, through hidden pockets of thigh deep snow and navigating between dangerous crevasses.
On the way down I did have one slip on a 35 deg slope but an immediate reflexive left handed ice axe arrest stopped my slide at 6 feet. I also did have one glissade on the way down near a steep fall, where too much snow got moving and momentum of the snow pack made it a little hard to stop. Arrest did not work because snow was too deep. Jamming axe straight in did not either because of momentum. Finally lessening of snow thickness and applying crampons to the underlying ice brought me to a prompt halt. We got back to our tent at 7 pm sunset.
There is a moderate route to summit along the ridge although pictures appeared otherwise. There is what looks like a steep slope of 200 feet of snow with some rock on the ridge. Intermediate leads or top roping or solo expert can succeed in good conditions. However, with time running out and still deep snow on the higher slopes of the mountain, the difficult decision was made to abandon the summit attempt, at camp 3. The local porters reckoned there was far more fresh snow than they had previously seen on many trips to the mountain. And once the decision had been made and the group had descended to BC, again the weather closed in.
On the way down Bakun we saw a snow leopard. We came up a rise and saw some movement about half a km down there. I realized it was a mother and 2 cubs. Fortunately the wind was blowing from down valley and they were far enough away. We watched them meandering down. We followed slowly, warily. They emerged lower in the gully running down and disappeared into the largest gully on the route and then up the mountainside. They paused to watch me but then kept going up and disappeared. I breathed a sigh of relief.
Though we could not reach the summit of spongtik on this trip it was very much a success. All of us agreed that the expedition had offered challenging, interesting and varied climbing with an insight into the numerous and varied level of opportunities/challenges for mountaineering in the Karakoram. Although proved to be more challenging than two of our member’ s expectations, it was of great value, learning a lot about mountaineering at higher altitudes and the skills /approaches needed or anyone considering an 8,000m climbing. For all of us this experience and insight has only intensified our interest and commitment to do more in the future and we are making plans for next year. All of us thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated the logistics arrangements of Vertical Explorers Expeditions Treks & Tours, Northern Area Pakistan based expedition organizer, and all the hard work and dedication put into the expedition by their courteous, professional and experienced crew; guide, cooks and High Altitude Porters and the extraordinary hospitality and generosity of those who live in these mountains in this un spoilt corner of the amazing mountains of the world.