Asia, Pakistan, Karakoram, Batura Muztagh, Batura II, Attempt, Yashuk Glacier, Nadin Sur, Jehangir Sar, Caboom Sar, and Mamu Sar, First Ascents

Publication Year: 2007.

Batura II, attempt; Yashuk Glacier, Nadin Sar, Jehangir Sar, Caboom Sar, and Mamu Sar, first ascents. In early summer Markus Walter (Germany) and I made another attempt on Batura II (7,762m), considered by some the highest unclimbed peak in the world. Unseasonable rains at the beginning of June caused much snow- shoveling, even in base camp beside the Muchuar Glacier, and heavy going in deep snow on the mountain. When good weather came, it was very good, and we made rapid headway to Camp 1 at 5,200m and Camp 2 in the Batokshi Col at 5,900m. We stocked Camp 2 with considerable food and equipment. We quickly established Camp 3 at 6,600m, but beyond we foundered. Our intended route through the summit headwall was washed by spindrift avalanches, hard to protect, difficult to exit, and led to dangerously unconsolidated summit slopes. The alternative, crossing the increasingly serac-threatened slope beneath and going around Batura I to approach from the north side, was possible only by following the foot of the headwall. Here we were forced to abandon our efforts in knee-deep powder on 45° slopes. We had to concede that this was not the year for Batura II.

After clearing the mountain and base camp, we decided to use the two remaining weeks for a rapid sortie into the Yashkuk Glacier basin on the north side of the Batura Range, reached from the Chapursan valley. The Yashkuk Glacier is smooth and straight and rock-covered for its 20km length between the snout and the confluence of the East and West Yashkuk glaciers. These diametrically opposed forks are both predominantly ice-covered, ca 5km long, and ringed by 6,000m peaks. The basin has been visited only twice: in 2001 by solo Japanese explorer Shigeru Masuyama and in 2005 by a Russian team under Lev Ioffe. Moving with difficulty on late-sum- mer open glaciers, Masuyama and his Pakistani sirdar, Sarfraz Khan, were nonetheless able to climb a 5,800m outlier of Zod Khon Peak at the extreme southwest corner of the West Yashkuk catchment. The Russian climbers attempted the northwest face of Pamri Sar (7,016m), reached from the end of the East Yashkuk, but were driven back from the summit of Pt. 6,923m by bad weather, after surmounting the climbing difficulties [see below].

Our mini-expedition reached an idyllic site for base camp at Pamri (4,040m) in two short days from Aliabad, the trekking portion of the approach requiring six hours on a grazing trail, following the true left side of the glacier. After waiting out two days of bad weather, we were treated to eight days of sunny skies and high temperatures. We therefore formulated the ambitious plan of an in-situ reconnaissance and alpine-style ascents of three unclimbed 6,000m peaks, one in each of the three major branches of the Yashkuk. We were entirely successful.

First came Nadin Sar (6,211m), the dominant peak of the upper Chapursan and located directly west of Pamri. On the first day we ascended a straightforward glacier, curving beneath the east face to attain a high camp at 5,400m. The following day we climbed snow slopes alongside the northeast ridge to the summit crest, finishing in deep, unconsolidated powder. The next morning saw a brief ascent of an outlying 5,800m summit, named Jehangir Sar after our faithful sirdar, cook, and friend in base camp. This gave us valuable views over the Yashkuk basin.

After a night in base camp, we set off for the next peak on the list, the shapely Caboom Sar (6,186m), located directly opposite Pamri and best approached from the south via the East Yashkuk. The approach to this glacier fork is a long but simple exercise, and we placed our first camp at 4,600m. In another long day we climbed southeast-facing snow slopes to attain the corniced east ridge, finding firm conditions except for the last 300 vertical meters. Views from this strategically placed peak are dominated by the northwest faces of Pamri Sar and Kampire Dior but include the full West Yashkuk basin.

The last summit of the trilogy was a granite peak known only as Pt. 6,096m, It is hidden at the back of the West Yashkuk cirque, where we placed a camp at 4,700m. The peak is accessible only by a broken side glacier, which we navigated before dawn, finding easy going as far as the col between 6,096m and Sax Sar (6240m, climbed from the opposite side by Walter and colleagues in 1998; AAJ 2000, pp. 323-325). A fine viewpoint (5,780m), clearing the col by some 100m on both sides, provided excellent views in all directions. From this upper basin we reached the summit by a snow/ice couloir through the east face, where unconsolidated conditions necessitated several hundred meters of belaying. We chose to name the peak Mamu Sar as a tribute to climbing colleague Mamu (Uncle) Guenter Jung, lost on Nanga Parbat in 2004.

Bruce Normand, U.K.