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Asia, Pakistan, Naltar Mountains, Shani Peak, Various Ascents

Shani Peak, Various Ascents. From July 25-September 4, Andreas Amons, Elwin van der Gragt, Benno Netelenbos and Melvin Redeker (the Netherlands) operated with a leave-no-trace objective from a 3920-meter Base Camp in the Upper Shani Valley. Our goal was to establish new routes alpine-style on one of the huge faces of Shani Peak (5885m).

The Northeast Spur (alpine TD+, 1000m) on the northeast buttress of Shani Peak was climbed by Andreas Amons and Melvin Redeker on August 19-22. Though the buttress appears to offer one of the closest climbs from BC, it is actually one of the most remote. The bottom icefall of the Shani North Glacier denies a direct approach; instead, the pair reached the base of the climb after a ten-hour approach from BC by climbing the grassy slopes toward Pakhor Pass, then, at 4400 meters, crossing the scree slope toward Twins East Glacier. They then climbed up this to the second plateau (North ABC, 4600m), crossed the crest of the middle rognon in its saddle via steep ice and finally traversed the Shani North Glacier to the northeast buttress.

The route starts in a broad gully directly above the icefall of the Shani North Glacier. After finishing the gully, the line links the snow/ice fields around the edge of the buttress via mixed ground. Then, where the edge sharpens toward the “false summit,” the route continues up the rock crest on rather poor rock. Protection is sparse. Due to bad weather, the party spent four days on the face with two days of food. On August 22, after completing the Northeast Spur climb, they set out from their 33-hour bivouac at the false summit in whiteout conditions to make the first ascent of Shani Peak’s East Summit, the easternmost of Shani’s triple summits. The climb consisted of a two-hour, straightforward, crevassed, 50-degree snowclimb. The altitude at the top was ca. 5615 meters (as measured by a wrist altimeter). Descent was made by down-climbing and rappelling the same route. The poor rock added extra thrill to the rappels. The original plan—to traverse all the summits and descend via the west ridge—was, under the circumstances, impossible.

A new route, the Southeast Face Direct (TD+, 1600m), which takes a direct line straight to the main summit, was also established. Approach was made via the upper Gulupur Glacier (South ABC), less than three hours from BC. The route follows the rock pillar to the left of the 1989 English route, then passes beneath the “fortress” halfway up, through the central snowfield and through the steep ice gully to the summit. The bottom half of the route consists of sheer Chamonix-like granite rock climbing, while the top half is closer in character to the north faces of the Bernese-Oberland. Steep snow, ice and rubble sections added juice to the climb. The bonus was found at 5650 meters in the form of a short, thin, 80-degree ice ramp that is hidden from the eye below. The route was first attempted on August 20 by Benno Netelenbos and Elwin van der Gragt, who reached the top of the pillar at 5050 meters before being caught by the same weather as the party on the other side of the mountain. On their second attempt, on August 30, Benno and Elwin rushed to the summit after 15 hours of climbing and one bivouac at 5220 meters. The climb was repeated the next day by Andreas Amons and Melvin Redeker, who added an important variation to the climb by avoiding the crux of the pillar and the horrible wet sneak-through “Tang-gila-gufa” passage high on the rock section. Descent, which provided the full scope of horror offered by the glaciers, was made via the West Ridge route in a 12-hour struggle back to BC.

While acclimatizing, other climbs made included Sentinel Peak (5345m), via the south face; Snowdome (5360m), via the north ridge; and a peak, measured and verified at 5322 meters, climbed on August 16 by Elwin van der Gragt, solo (AD, 500m). Believing it to be unclimbed, we dubbed it “Pointe Paula.” We later found that, in the account of the successful 1989 English Shani expedition, a peak (probably the same one) named “Sentinel North” in a table of peaks in the area, was listed as having been previously climbed. The climb is not registered anywhere, and we do not know where they got their information.

Elwin van der Gragt, The Netherlands