American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Pakistan, Himalaya, Hispar Muztagh, Shimshal White Horn (ca. 6,400m), Attempt

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2006

Shimshal White Horn (ca. 6,400m), attempt. Shimshal White Horn (a.k.a. Ishpardin) is an elegant snow pyramid located to the northeast of Distaghil Sar. In July-August a French team comprising Jacques Autino, Brimbelle Grandcolas, Luc Jarry-Lacombe, Ludovic Lagoutte, and David Marchaland attempted it. The climbers approached via Shimshal village (this formerly remote settlement has had road access since 2003) and established a base camp on the left bank of the Yazghil Glacier, to the northeast of the mountain. They set up Camp 1 at 5,200m, but a reconnaissance above revealed that access to the northeast ridge would be very complex and was covered with fresh powder. Discouraged, the climbers abandoned their plans and returned to Shimshal.

There they talked with one of Pakistan’s most famous high-altitude guides and 8,000m climbers, Rajab Shar. Although Shar had failed twice before on the mountain, he persuaded them to continue with the expedition. Two of the team therefore walked up the Goz Valley directly south of Shimshal, from where they could get a view of the northern side of the White Horn. From 4,400m they could see the north face dangerously endowed with seracs, but also saw a possible line well to the right, leading to the northwest ridge.

On August 1 they set off again, with only seven porters and seven days of mountain food. That afternoon they established base camp on the left bank of the Goz Glacier at 4,400m. On the 3rd all the team except Lagoutte, who had a cold, went up toward the foot of the north face and camped at 4,750m. Because of the heat, they elected to climb at night, and set the alarm for 8:30 p.m. A little before midnight the four French crossed the bergschrund at 5,000m on the right side of the face, then climbed an 800m couloir (Alpine D; 50°) to the crest of the northwest ridge, which they reached at sunrise. Conditions rapidly deteriorated, and they bivouacked for the day, suffering in the heat before departing again at around 9:00 p.m. At 6,000m they gave up after sinking more than a meter in 50-60° snow. The west flank of the ridge looked better, so on the 5th they descended blind towards the Malangutti Glacier. Thirteen hours of descent, with bad snow and complex route-finding through the seriously crevassed glacier, brought them to a comfortable bivouac site on the moraine. Next day they reached Shimshal.

While Rajab Shar and the French team were under the impression that Shimshal White Horn was a virgin peak, in fact it was climbed in 1999. In early July of that year a small international team entered the Yazghil Glacier and established a base camp at the point known as Parigoz, farther up the glacier than the first French base camp. On an early reconnaissance the group reached the top of a 6,300m shoulder immediately to the east of the White Horn. On their summit attempt they climbed back toward the shoulder, traversing its north face at ca. 6,000m to reach a snow basin below the east face of the White Horn. From there they climbed this flank to the upper northeast ridge, but due to poor snow on the crest made a rising leftward ascent on the east face. One member of the team reached the summit on July 19. The overall grade was Alpine AD with snow/ice to 50°.

Lindsay Griffin, Mountain INFO, CLIMB Magazine

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