The Golden Pillar

Story of a first ascent in Spantik

Mick Fowler in final pitch. ©Saunders

The Golden Pillar of the Spantik owes its name to the orange-pink marble which captures the light of the setting sun. It has often been compared to large alpine routes such as the Walker Spur, but the Walker starts at 3000 meters and climbs to 4000, while the pillar of the Spantik starts at 5000 and goes up to 7000. The Golden Pillar was first climbed by Britons Mick Fowler and Victor Saunders in 1987 and it was one of the most remarkable pure Alpine style climbs of the time, if not the most remarkable. Story of this first ascent, by Vic Saunders.

In the heart of the Karakoram, in the ancient Mirdom of Nagar, lies a little-known mountain. Although the Karakoram Highway passes no more than 30 km from it, the peak is not visible from the road. Yet from Nagar the mountain is striking.

On the Skardu side of the watershed, the peak is called Spantik. (This may be a Balti name : I have not been there.) According to some sources the peak is also known as Yengutz Sar : this is clearly erroneous, as the peak cannot be seen from the Burushaski-speaking Yengutz Har Valley (‘Valley of the Torrent of the Flour Mills’), and Sar is not a Burushaski synonym for peak ; it means pond.

The first Westerners to attempt the mountain were the Americans, Fanny Bullock Workman and her husband Dr William Hunter Workman. In 1906 they climbed the laborious Chogolungma Glacier, taking