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Asia, Pakistan, K12

K12. The Saltoro Expedition spent three months in the region at the head of the Saltoro valley, in the eastern Karakoram, during late May, June, July and August. The members were P. J. Stephenson, Australian, leader, K. J. Miller and D. Haffner, British, J. P. Hurley, American, and R. Sebastian Khan, Pakistani, liaison officer. We left Skardu on May 21 and took eight days to the uppermost village in the Saltoro valley, Goma. From there we followed up the Bilafond valley and glacier to the second major glacial tributary on the east side, opposite Naram, known locally as the Grachmo Lungba. Base Camp was established on June 1, three miles up this glacier at 15,000 feet. This glacier takes a sharp turn beyond this camp, rising close to the west face of K12 (24,503 feet), the exploration of which was our central objective. To try to reach a 19,500-foot pass west of the peak, we climbed the several icefalls on the upper part of the glacier and established two camps at 16,500 and 18,000 feet respectively, but failed initially to find a route through the final icefall, immediately below the pass. After bad weather, we reascended to Camp I to proceed with the plane-table survey. From Camp II a route was finally found through the upper icefall. On June 24, Camp III was set up in the pass. The weather again deteriorated for four days. At the earliest opportunity, a descent was made north from the pass into the extensive snow basin, first seen by Shipton’s party in 1957. Two fine days, the only ones experienced, allowed us to survey it both by plane tabling and partially by photo-theodolite. While descending to Base from the pass, Miller was struck on the head by ice and had to return to Skardu. Hurley and I remained on the pass, hoping to reconnoitre the K12 ridge, but bad weather prevented this. We two joined the others at Base on July 4 but the next day reascended and on the 6th reoccupied the camp on the pass. On the 7th we cut a route up the first 1500 feet of the west ridge’s steps. Hurley, without previous mountaineering experience, reached 20,500 feet, and after seeing the camp pitched, descended, leaving me the strongest porter, Choo, to continue the reconnaissance next day. We cut up the steep ice and snow buttresses on the ridge to reach the snow apron which covers the upper southwest face. I eventually reached a point on the apron close to 23,000 feet, but though the difficulties of the route had all been overcome, at three p.m. it was necessary to descend to rejoin Choo, who had rested at 22,500 feet with a severe headache. While Hurley left the group on July 12 to return to Skardu, making ethnological studies en route, we other three explored the Chumik Glacier. The glacier proved shorter than suggested by the original survey map, and from the gap reached at its head, we perceived that the country beyond, lying south and east of K12, is completely misrepresented on previous maps. After a return to Goma, Haffner had to leave. Captain Khan and I then spent ten days exploring and mapping the Gyong Glacier system. Here considerable modifications to the known topography were made and in fact a large blank area existing on the ¼-inch survey maps has been filled in.

P. J. Stephenson