In recent years Spantik has gained considerable popularity amongst expedition climbers and operators of organised ascents.
Located in a relatively accessible, but still remote region, her approach is only 3 days, precluding the arduous approach march often associated with Himalayan 7000 and 8000m peaks.
This accessibility, and the fact that her long and spectacular ridge route is almost completely objectively safe, has seen a boom in the number of expeditions trying her each year - up from one or two each season in the mid 90’s to an average eight per season since 2000.
A permit is required, so is a Military or Tourism Ministry approved Liaison Officer. The Pakistan Government has reduced peak fees for the third year in a row, ostensibly in an attempt to lure trekkers and climbers back to the country after the terrorism alerts after 9/11. A climb permit will cost around USD$2000 for up to 5 climbers. It is in your best interests to engage an agency in Islamabad to do this or join an organised group where it is taken care of. An environment bond of $200 is also required, and if you want a back up rescue helicopter, a bond of $6000 will be required (in which case you really then need a satellite phone - add $200 for a permit for the phone)
You will also need to equip your LO with all the latest climbing and clothing gear, though he will most likely not use it. Our last LO took 5 good books to base camp and spent two weeks sunbaking...
By Karakoram standards she is quite accessible. You can fly in a PIA B737 to Skardu (KDU) from Islamabad (ISB) if the weather is good (despite KDU having ILS pilots wont attempt to land in low ceilings - when you see the approach you will know why..). The alternative is a 36 hr land trip via the mind-boggling Karakaroram Hwy, which is a great way to see backwater country Pakistan. Try to bus up to Skardu and fly out to Islamabad if possible.
Skardu is the hopping off point for all major expeditions and treks into the Baltoro region, here you can make last minute arrangements, stock up on items, and enjoy the lazy atmosphere, ancient markets, and balmy weather.
From Skardu it is a ten hour jeep drive through one of the most picturesque and enchanting valley routes I have ever seen in this part of the world. The extremely rough tracks take you past hidden oasis of picture perfect villages and tumbling mountain streams. It really is a stunning journey.
At the end of the track lies Arandu village, a remote and cut off community of about 600 inhabitants who see few westerners each year. They will tell you however about the US Special Forces and CIA operatives who went up the valley 16 months ago looking for some guy called Usama. It wouldnt have been a good pace to hide though - the valley to Spantik is a dead ender unless youve got crampons and spools of rope.
Villagers here are very friendly, stay clear of the girls though (even friendly gestures are frowned upon), Arandu is very fundamental.
You can hire jeeps in Skardu, and porters also. If you wait till you get to Arandu with all your supplies before negotiating for porters, you will be at a disadvantage and at their behest. As nice as they are, if you rock up with no support you will end up paying a double rate for men to carry your loads.
WARNING: Arandu and other villages on the approach have had lingering issues with Typhoid in recent years. NEVER drink untreated water from village sources.
The walk to Spantik basecamp requires a march of 3 days along a straightfroward glacial system. You should take a guide, dont expect your LO to know the way or offer any assistance - it is likely his frst time here too. There s one difficult point where you drop down to the ice from the moraine bank - a porter fell here and died some years back and as a result the descent strikes the fear of god into your load carriers. Look after them and help them down with ropes if necessary.
The three camp-sites en-route are flat, some have trees, and water s nearby. Wear a hat for the walk and take plenty of sunscreen.
The normal northern summer climbing season stretches from May through to October each year. One could say that even entering the region in winter is madness, let alone trying to climb a peak, but the Karakoram is increasingly seeing more winter attempts (of which about 90% fail )
The basecamp is not one to be overly looked forward to - its located at the bottom of the access ridge to the SE ridge, and is footed on a moving terminal moraine. You sleep and eat and live on ice and rock. Make some effort to cut a good slab for your tent to get comfortable. On the ridge, numerous sites exist out of harms way, all in superb and spectacular settings.
There is only one flat spot suitable for a single tent on the access ridge going up to the SE ridge, its useful if you start late in the day or are carrying a very heavy load. Try hard to avoid descending the access ridge in the dark, its easy to get off track and end up on vertical cliffs.
At base camp, if your feeling adventurous, take a trip up the icefall pouring off to the south. Its mostly safe hard ice walls with clear crevasses - be careful after fresh snow.
Her enormous nearly 8km long SE ridge undulates across varied terrain and provides extraordinarily stunning views to both sides. At a few points on the ridge, you will have one cramponed boot on one side, and one on the other, with the sides dropping away thousands of metres to the glaciers below, most other times, the ridge is the width of a tennis court. The top camp (C3) is on a plateaux, hundreds of metres across.
The crux of the climbing is above C3, on steep slopes that sometimes require fixed rope. These slopes can be unstable after 4 inches or more of fresh snow. Most turnarounds occur here. If conditions are good its not too hard though, just a lttle exposed.
Like any peak in the Karakoram she is prone to unstable weather. If you are not an experienced climber, or not in an organised group, you should be mindful of this when high on the ridge. Its a long, long way to reverse in blinding wind and deep snow if you dont know what your doing. Climbers have died trying to descend this route in storms, others have lost toes and fingers - this climb, in bad weather, can be dangerous. Fixed ropes down the steeper sections will assist a speedy descent. Be careful and watch your barometers.
Also, ALWAYS wear a rope. We had 3 climbers fall into crevasses, one of whom was very lucky and not roped in -see the pictures below taken from a DVCam sequence
Two operators provide annual trips here:
Jagged Globe www.jaggedglobe.com
Field Touring Alpine www.fieldtouring.com
If you have some experience and wish to tackle her alone or with a group of friends you can engage a local supplier to make the arrangements for you, try Adventure Tours Pakistan
Many other local suppliers are available, but note that any local supplier cannot provide a climbing guide in the sense you are used to. If you are using local suppliers and 'guides' you will mostly be left to your own devices on the hill and have no real safety back-up. This method of climbing is really only advised if you are a competent alpinist.