Thanglasgo Valley, Peak 5,850m, northwest face and northeast ridge; Peak 5,995m, southeast ridge. From 2007 to 2009 I led expeditions to the Nubra Valley for the British Schools Exploring Society (BSES), picking off a few previously climbed and unclimbed peaks in the Thanglasgo Valley south of Hundar.
Lying north of Leh in the rain shadow of the Himalaya, this region has seen few parties outside the main trekking routes; because of its proximity to the Pakistan border, it is regarded by the Indian military as being particularly sensitive. During the 2009 expedition plans were laid to attempt unclimbed Telthop (6,010m), which lies at the head of the Khalsar Dag Valley.
In 2010 our primarily British group arrived at the IMF offices in Delhi to discover that our intended approach from Hundar was impractical due to washed out bridges. After three days acclimatizing in Leh, we crossed the Kardung La to Desket, where we attempted to reach the mountain over a high pass south of Desket Gompa. Although this would have worked, we retreated when we realized our horses could not follow through the steep rocky terrain.
Reaching Hundar, we shelved our disappointment and made alternative plans to access the mountain via the main Thanglasgo Valley. A three-day trek took us to Thanglasgo hamlet (ca 4,600m) and the mouth of an unexplored valley to the east that we hoped would lead to our peak. A reconnaissance next day showed this approach to be long and difficult, with much moraine and a steep glacier. Although we could access the mountain via this route, we realized we would not have time to make a realistic attempt. However, we caught sight of a peak at the head of the initial valley. It is marked on the map as 5,850m and was confirmed by our Sherpas to be unclimbed. We were also rewarded with views of a possible route to another reportedly unclimbed peak lying immediately to the north of Shabib Chasser (a summit climbed by the 2007 Jagged Globe expedition).
From a base camp at Thanglasgo hamlet we established a high camp in the valley leading to 5,850m, and the day after crossed incredibly unstable moraine and a long glacier to reach the northwest face. This gave 300m of climbing up to 60° and led to the snowy, sometimes knife-edge, northeast ridge. Andrea Bainbridge, Sarah Reynolds, Bob Shiels, and I climbed rapidly in deteriorating weather to reach the rocky summit, where a GPS reading gave the altitude as 5,870m. The ascent was graded F.
In the few days remaining we attempted the peak north of Shabib Chasser. Given the warm weather and poor snow conditions, we decided to reconnoiter the southeast ridge, which was mainly rocky. We placed another high camp, and after a few hours sleep the mandatory alpine start saw us scrambling in the dark up a loose scree/boulder slope to gain the ridge. The crest gave climbing up to British Severe, and after nine hours Reynolds, Shiels, and I reached the summit, on which we recorded a GPS altitude of 5,995m. The overall grade was AD+.
We descended steep and alarmingly soft snow on the northeast ridge, regained high camp, dismantled it, and returned to base, crossing a cold, unpleasantly high and fast-flowing river.
We ended the trip by reaching Leh via a two-day trek south over the Lassermola La (Lasirmou La, 5,550m). Soft snow prevented the horses from making the crossing, providing us with an unforeseen forced march, while they took the long way round. On our first night back in Leh, the unseasonable weather culminated in a cloudburst that devastated the city and surrounding area. Expedition members were unscathed, and after a 24-hour delay while the airport was cleared of debris, we were able to make our way to Delhi and connecting flights home.
Other members of the expedition were Colin Bainbridge, Henry Latti (Finland), David Moseley, and Matt Powell (US). Special thanks to Mr. J. K. Sharma, First Secretary of the Indian Consulate in London, for helping with the X Visa process, and support staff and Sherpas at RIMO expeditions in Leh for making the impossible possible.
Chris Horobin, UK