In August 2017, four friends traveled to the Shimshal Valley to look for unclimbed peaks. Steve Carratt, George Cave, Clay Conlon, and I had previous expedition experience, but due to work commitments could only afford three weeks away. This was a risky plan, as the team would only spend a week at base camp and would be living above 4,400m after four days. With the help of a fifth team member, local guide Karim Hayat, whom George had met in Yosemite on an AAC International Climbers’ Meet, we found a number of unclimbed mountains between 5,800m and 6,000m, easily accessible from the Gunj-e Dur glacial system (sometimes written as Ganj-e Dur or Ganj Dur).
We took three days to walk from Shimshal to a base camp in the Gunj-e-Tang river valley, arriving on August 31. After three days of acclimatizing, advanced base camps were established below the First East and Second East Gunj-e Dur glaciers, from which two climbs were made.
From a 5,000m camp below the First East Gunj-e Dur Glacier, Karim, George, and I attempted the southeast face of Peak 6,200m (Polish Wala map). Unfortunately, George had to descend from 5,500m due to altitude illness. Karim and I carried on to the summit ridge. This ridge is multi-topped, similar to the various summits along the summit crest of the Grandes Jorasses. We arrived at about the midpoint on the ridge and climbed to the nearest summit, which we named Yad Sar (Remembrance Peak) and measured at 6,015m (36.60809°N, 75.58147°E).
To the west, along the crest, rose another summit (Point 6,150m on both Russian and Polish maps), which didn't seem to be any higher than ours. To the east, about 200m distant, was the highest peak on the ridge. It appeared around 80m higher than us and was deemed unreachable given the current snowpack. Our ascent route to Yad Sar, named Half Way House (900m, Scottish II/III), followed a wide, easy 300m gully in the center of the face to a more difficult hanging glacier about 500m high. We climbed this route on September 5 and descended the same day, with eight rappels from Abalakovs and some downclimbing, returning to the tent after a 19-hour day.
Meanwhile, Clay and Steve had turned their attentions to an unclimbed peak of 5,855m (36.54698°N, 75.64537°E) in the Second East Gunj-e Dur Glacier, which they summited on September 4. The pair climbed the west ridge (1,000m above camp, PD) in seven hours. The climbing was mostly easy but also very loose, with a thin layer of snow over rock and scree. They crossed the summit and descended the northwest flank and glacier, regaining the tent shortly before nightfall.
In a country with a reputation in the West for terrorism and kidnapping, the team felt safe and relaxed throughout the entire visit. The Karakoram Highway seemed extremely secure. The approach trek toward Shimshal Pass was stunning and a highlight of the expedition. Travel in this hospitable country is highly recommended. We would like to thank the Austrian Alpine Club, British Mountaineering Council, Mount Everest Foundation, Alpine Club Fund, and Karabiner Club for financial support of this expedition.
Ross Davidson, Alpine Club, U.K.