Japanese alpinists Kazuaki Amano, Fumitaka Ichimura and Yusuke Sato have made an alpine-style third ascent of the 1987 British Route on the Golden Pillar of Spantik in the Pakistan Karakoram.
The three Japanese, who this year were celebrated at the Piolets d'Or in Chamonix for their committing first ascent of Kalanka's North Face during 2008, climbed this elegant line in four days.
They are part of a group of talented young alpinists who refer to themselves as the Giri-Giri Boys (they jokingly called themselves after a Japanese celebrity group called the Giri-Giri Girls and the name has stuck).
The three had planned to climb a new route up the North West Face to the right, but the line was deemed too dangerous due to the state of capping seracs, so they switched to the 1987 British Route.
Even here, things did not go to plan. During their acclimatization program, where they reached an altitude of 6,200m, they were hit by an avalanche and swept several hundred metres, narrowly escaping death.
After almost a week resting at their 4,500m base camp following heavy snowfall, the three climbed in one day to 6,000m on the pillar. The next day they reached 6,400m, and the following day made their third bivouac at 6,600m. Here, they dropped the only stove, and on the fourth day completed the route on one-tenth of a litre of water that they had melted using a lighter.
After reaching the 7,028m summit, the three descended the South West Ridge and North West Spur, with another bivouac at 6,800m before regaining base camp
Although very highly rated in British mountaineering circles at the time, the ascent of the spectacular 2,000m Golden Pillar on the North West Face of Spantik, climbed over seven days in August 1987 by Mick Fowler and Victor Saunders, remained largely unknown to many Europeans until the publication of the seminal and inspirational work Himalayan Alpine Style (Fanshawe/Venables).
The final 1,100m pillar gave Fowler and Saunders 40 totally committing pitches, more than half of which were quoted as Scottish 5 or above. On one or two sections high on the pillar, the pair was unable to place any decent belay anchor, let alone worthwhile runners.
The pillar was climbed again in 2000. The Russians Mikhail Davy and Alexandre Klenov made a prolonged capsule ascent of an independent line towards the left side of the pillar at 7a, A3 and 95°, while Emmanuel Guy (France), Attila Osvath (Hungary), Emmanuel Pellissier (France) and Marko Prezelj (Slovenia) repeated the British Route.
The multi-national four-man team confirmed that while most of the climbing was between Scottish 4 and 6, there were no exceptional technical difficulties. However, they felt that the first ascent was a truly outstanding achievement for the era and most likely the hardest mixed climb completed at that time on a Himalayan/Karakoram 7,000er.
Thanks to Hiroshi Hagiwara for help with this report