American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Pakistan, Ghujerab Mountains, Passes over the Central Asian Watershed, First Crossings

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2001

Passes over the Central Asian Watershed, First Crossings. John Mock and Kimberley O’Neil completed a 29-day exploration of the Ghujerab Mountains in the northern Karakoram Range northeast of the Shimshal Pass and west of the Shaksgam (Muztagh) and Oprang rivers, the only part of Pakistan that lies within the Central Asian watershed. We reconnoitered and crossed two previously unknown passes, which we named Ghidims Pass and Ghidims Pass South, over the Central Asian watershed, and also crossed Mai Dur Pass, first crossed in 1925 by the Visser-Hooft Expedition but neglected ever since.

Leaving Shimshal village on June 15, we crossed Shpodeen Pass (5346m) from the Zardgarben Valley into the Pamir Mai Dur Valley on June 17. On June 19 we crossed the glaciated Mai Dur Pass (5700m) into the Ghuzherav Mai Dur Valley. We found the pass corniced with a ten-meter vertical headwall on its east side.

We then ascended the Ghidims Valley. On June 23 and 24, we explored the glacier at the valley’s head, ascended a ridge to 5800 meters, and saw a feasible route over the watershed into Sher Ilaq Valley. On June 26, we crossed Ghidims Pass South (5650m) in the middle of the snow-covered rock ridge that formed the watershed. The descent on the Sher Ilaq side paralleled a rock rib that descended from the ridge. We made two rappels to the base of the rib and crossed the bergschrund below, which was bridged by snow from winter avalanches. We traversed north across the glacial basin (the North Rost-e-Dur Glacier’s southeast arm) to the base of a rock spur, where we crossed onto a moraine. We followed this moraine due east, then crossed to the glacier’s north margin.

Being the first westerners to ever visit the Sher Ilaq Valley, we spent four days exploring, then returned to a high camp (5060m) on the watershed’s eastern side on July 1.

We decided to try a different return route, and on July 2 we crossed the upper North Rost- e-Dur Glacier and headed toward a prominent rock rib in the middle of an arm of the upper glacier. We traversed the upper basin of this small arm, then ascended a snow-covered 40- degree slope to the unglaciated Ghidims Pass (5486m). The descent from the pass was a 45- degree slope of mixed scree and rock covered by fresh snowfall. At the base, we crossed a small unnamed glacier and followed its lateral moraine and outflow stream to the main Ghidims Valley. We returned to Shimshal via Boesam Pass (4875m), the standard route between the Ghuzherav and Shimshal valleys.

John Mock and Kimberley O’Neil

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