American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Shimshal White Horn, Attempt; Madhil Sar, Probable First Ascent; Haigutum East, First Ascent; Khani Basis Sar, Attempt; Gorhil Sar, First Attempt

Pakistan, Karakoram, Hispar Muztagh

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Author: Lee Harrison
  • Climb Year: 2006
  • Publication Year: 2007

Peter Thompson and I visited three regions during the summer: Shimshal, Hispar, and Chapursan. In Shimshal we were accompanied by fellow U.K. mountaineers Ben Cheek and Gregory Nunn. We attempted six peaks, reaching the summits of four. Nearly all climbing was on snow and ice.

We spent June and July in the Shimshal region, first acclimatizing on Yazghil Sar (5,964m). Ben, Peter, and I then made three unsuccessful attempts on Shimshal White Horn (6,303m) from a 4,400m base camp and higher bivouac at 4,600m on the Adver Glacier. Our intended route was the north ridge, gained by a couloir (D, 50°, 800m) well to the right of the true north face. This couloir had been climbed in 2005 by a French team. Our first attempt was thwarted by bad weather that began soon after we started climbing. Poor visibility led us mistakenly to follow a smaller branch couloir that reached a dead end after 300m. We made a second attempt two days later. After quickly climbing the first 700m of couloir, we were subjected to rockfall. Ben was struck on the thigh and injured. We retreated, a determined Ben lowering himself on two axes.

Five days later Peter and I tried again. Following the left side of the couloir toward the top, to avoid further rockfall, we encountered poor ice conditions. With limited ice protection we were forced to make a tricky traverse to the col. Exhausted from our efforts, we bivouacked a short distance up the ridge, at 5,600m. The following morning the weather was again bad, and we again retreated. However, there was time for a quick ascent [possibly the first, but see entry below on Shifkitin Sar] of Madhil Sar (ca 5,700m), a small summit 100m above and northwest of the col.

During July and August Peter and I spent two weeks at or above a base camp at Hagure Shangali Cham (4,570m), on the north side of the Hispar Glacier. Not long after we established camp, we made the first ascent of Haigutum East (5,783m) in the Bal Chhish Range on the south side of the Hispar Glacier. The ascent took two days. Route-finding through the numerous crevasses and seracs that litter the mountain was a challenge, and poor snow conditions prevailed. Our route involved an easy traverse across the north face to a bivouac at 5,200m, from where we climbed a northeastern spur. The route warranted Alpine D, with the main difficulties occurring higher up.

Toward the end of August we made a six-day excursion to the Lupgar Mountains of Chapursan. We established base camp at 4,700m on the edge of a glacial side valley to the east of Lupgar Pir Pass. We subsequently climbed Gorhil Sar (5,800m, altimeter reading) in a single day from a bivouac east of the mountain. We first reached a 5,200m col left of the north face and from here ascended the east ridge (30-50°) to make the first ascent. During the climb we found snow conditions to be excellent and made rapid progress. However, on the descent we dropped directly to the glacial floor, as rapidly softening snow deterred us from traversing back to our bivouac site. As we again carried no rope, we had to downclimb, rather than rappel, the 55-60° hard, sugary ice immediately below the col. Our route up Gorhil Sar was around Alpine AD+ but felt harder given the ill-equipped nature of the descent.

Lee Harrison, UK

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