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Asia, India—Eastern Karakoram, Peaks above Chong Kumdan and Aq Tash Glaciers

Peaks Above Chong Kumdan and Aq Tash Glaciers. Our members were Arun Samant, Muslim Contractor, Monesh Devjani, Vijay Kothari, Ashwin Popat and I as leader. We visited the last two major glaciers in the Eastern Karakoram and climbed peaks northeast of the Saser La. Our approach was fraught with difficulties. Via Sasoma, the Tulum Puti La, Changmolung, the Saser La and the Shyok River, we finally got to Base Camp at the snout of the Aq Tash Glacier on July 29. It was 28 days since we had left Bombay and 17 days from Leh (instead of the expected 6). During the ensuing days, I suffered a bout with malaria and went to Chong Tash Camp with Devjani to recover. Samant and Contractor penetrated the Aq Tash (White Stone) Glacier with porters. In six days they had Camps I and II established and stocked at 5200 and 5650 meters. In inclement weather they climbed to the col between Aq Tash (7016 meters) and P 6739. Aq Tash was too steep and sharp. They tried P 6739, east of the col, and on August 7 reached a 6400-meter black tower. They returned to Base Camp on August 9, where Devjani and I joined them after my recovery. Contractor and porter Pasang Bodh decided to continue climbing around the Aq Tash Glacier while others proceeded to the Chong Kumdan (Big Dam) Glacier. They climbed “Lokhzung” (Eagle’s Nest; 6090 meters, 19,981 feet) on August 12 and “Chathung Thung” (Black-Neck Cranes; 5645 meters, 18,520 feet) on August 14. Devjani, Samant and I with three porters left for the Chong Kumdan Glacier along the Shyok River. Cutting across the Thangman Glacier, Samant and porter Koylu Ram had a tough time crossing the ice pinnacles. We reached the four-kilometer-long plain near the Chong Kumdan Glacier. This advancing glacier has blocked the flow of the Shyok a number of times in the past, forming a huge glacial lake. Whenever the dam burst, it loosed giant floods in the Shyok (River of Death), causing destruction and death for miles downriver. The last such major flood was on August 16, 1928. We established an Advance Base on the left moraine at 5040 meters, below the peak “Skyang.” In the short time we had, we could only examine the eastern and southern aspects of Chong Kumdan I (7071 meters). We placed a camp up a side glacier at 5540 meters. On August 14, we climbed to a 5900-meter pass, where I, nursing a recent fracture, had to drop out. The views of Chong Kumdan I were both enchanting and threatening. Samant, Devjani and Kolyu Ram climbed to the summit of “Chogam” (Box of Holy Scriptures; 6250 meters, 20,506 feet), up firm, steep snow to a 30-foot rock pinnacle at the summit. On August 15, Samant and Kolyu Ram climbed “Stos” (Ibex; 6005 meters, 19,700 feet) to the east of Chong Kumdan I, traversing below the slopes of Chogam. The next day Devjani and Yog Raj climbed “Skyang” (Wild Ass; 5770 meters, 18,931 feet) up the southeast slopes from Advance Base to the summit pinnacles. Our mules arrived on time and we had a quick passage to Sasoma (August 22) and to Leh the next day. The area northeast of the Saser La is absolutely barren. Weather in July was atrocious with rain and clouds. August was better but colder.

Harish Kapadia, Himalayan Club