American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Pakistan, Karakoram, Hispar Muztagh, Shimshal White Horn, History

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2007

Shimshal White Horn, history. In 1984 Dick Renshaw and Stephen Venables, taking advantage of new trekking regulations allowing visits with minimal formalities to high points up to 6,000m in designated areas, explored the lower Malangutti Glacier. They concentrated their efforts on a cwm above the east side of the glacier, at the back of which rose a beautiful snow pyramid, “which for want of a local name we chose to call Shimshal Weisshorn” [White Horn on modern maps]. After acclimatizing on Corner Peak (ca 5,600m) at the end of the long northwest ridge of the White Horn, which forms the southern rim of the cwm, and a 5,200m peak on the long north ridge directly above Shimshal, the pair attempted the knife-edge north ridge from the cwm but were thwarted at the start by 30 hours of continuous snowfall. They estimated the height of the peak to be around 6,400m.

In 1986 Shimsal White Horn became the objective of a British team comprising Paul Allison, Chris Clark, John Burslem, Paul Metcalfe, and Dave Robbins, who discovered the local name “Adver Sar.” This team approached via the lower Malangutti and established a base camp at just under 4,000m on the true left bank of the cwm that lies northwest of the summit. They climbed an ice face to the west col and from there more easily up the northwest ridge to the summit, which they reached on August 16 after a bold four-day alpine-style ascent. Prior to this they had acclimatized by making the first ascent of a 5,700-5,800m peak on the north ridge that they believe was called Shifkitin Sar. This peak had been attempted just before their visit by an Irish team, which attempted the north ridge but aborted just past a 5,300m subsidiary summit. They refer to the glacier cwm as the Madhil, and it may be that Shifkitin Sar is one of the four summits also referred to as the Madhil Sar peaks (see report above by Lee Harrison). The trip ended in tragedy, when Metcalfe developed cerebral edema at 5,900m, and then at a point just below 5,500m, with the glacier and safety in sight, a rappel anchor failed and Clark and Robbins fell 200m. While Clark sustained serious injuries, Robbins was killed instantly.

Clark has downloaded and processed space shuttle data, which gives the summits location as E 75° 16.30' E, N 36° 22.06' and altitude as 6,555m. However, shuttle data is notoriously unreliable for snow-covered surfaces, because of problems with radar backscatter, so the altitude likely lies in the range 6,400m to 6,555m (though the reports on the German ascent and British attempt above quote a lower height of 6,303m). There are also unconfirmed reports that one or more Japanese climbers were killed in an avalanche, attempting the mountain at a later date from the Malangutti Glacier. What has been confirmed is that Japanese visited the Madhil Glacier in 1988 after an aborted attempt on the north face of Distaghil Sar. They climbed the most northerly of the four Madhil peaks (ca 5,670m) and nearly reached the top of the most westerly (ca 5,200m) but did not attempt the highest of the group. The 2005 French team, which in 2005 attempted the north ridge of Shimshal White Horn from the Adver Glacier, descended the west flank to the cwm (Madhil Glacier) mentioned above and then down through what they described as seriously crevassed terrain to the Malangutti glacier.

Paul Allison and Lindsay Griffin, U.K.

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