Asia, Pakistan, Shimshal Valley, Exploration and Survey

Publication Year: 2003.

Shimshal Valley, exploration and survey. In 2001, when the Yokohama Alpine Club went to the Shimshal Pass area to climb Mungarig-Sar (Lupjoi-Sar), we found the whole area to be almost completely unsurveyed. We had so much trouble identifying the surrounding peaks that we decided to go back there in 2002, to explore the unknown peaks and produce more information about this remote, rarely visited spot. A complete report of this expedition can be found in Japan Alpine News #3, April 2003.

First, here is a brief history of the only previous explorations that we know of:

1889: F. E. Younghusband discovered the Shimshal Pass.

1892: G.K. Cockerill surveyed the Virjerab Glacier and observed the south side of the Chot-Pert Group (he did not see its inaccessible north side).

1913: An Indo-Russian survey was made at each frontier area, but surveys of remote areas, such as Chot-Pert and Shuijerab, were not made.

1925: C. & J. Visser surveyed the upper part of Virjerab Glacier, and roughly located three peaksin the Chot-Pert Group on their map: Gim-Gim (18,270', 5,568m), Chot-Pert (19,670',5,995m), and a peak at the eastern edge of the group (20,810', 6343m).

1934: R.C.F. Schomberg entered the Shuijerab Valley and saw the valley from above, looking down from a small side valley branching left of the main valley. But no detailed record of his observations exists.

1937: E. Shipton led a party which surveyed the north side of the Karakoram Range. Their map shows Shimshal Pass (4,735m), an unnamed peak which is probably Mungarig-Sar (6,050m), and a 5,930m peak at the east edge of the Chot-Pert Group (up to the east side of the Shuwert Glacier, and the east part of Chot-Pert).

The Ganj-i-Tang Valley, Shuijerab Valley, Shuwert Glacier, and the Chot-Pert Group were still unsurveyed.

The Yokohama Alpine Club left Pasu on July 6 following the Shimshal River and Pamir-i- Tang. We reached Shimshal Pass, where we set up our base camp, on July 12. From there, we followed the East Joi-Dur Glacier seven kilometers up from its snout. We had intended to climb a 5,930m peak located south of the head of the glacier, but abandoned that climb because of hidden crevasses. We also followed the West Joi-Dur Glacier for 7 kilometers—coming close to its intersection with the Phurzin Glacier—and ascended Mungarig-Sar (6,034m) and Kuz-Sar (5,500m).

On July 19, we spent a few days moving our base camp to Shuijerab Village, then went up the Shuijerab Glacier, where we had some more bad luck. We had planned to climb a 6,200m peak at the northern head of the glacier, but were forced back by bad weather and perilous glacier conditions. So we aimed for Halshamas-Sar (5,836m) instead, but had to retreat 15 meters below the summit after escaping from an avalanche. Next, we entered an east branching valley and went to the snout of the East Shuijerab Glacier, but couldn’t see the surrounding peaks because of poor visibility.

On July 23, we split into two parties, then spent the next two weeks exploring Shuijerab Village, Arbab-Phurien, S-Mai-Dur, Shipodin-Pir, Shipodin, Boesam-Pir (the watershed pass to the Chujerab Valley), Shipodin, Zard-i-Gar-Dur, Shimshal Village, Ziarat, Karimabad, Yazgil Glacier (up to its snout), Past-Helga, Shiririn, Sekrwar, and Khurdopin Glacier (high camp at 4,467m).

We found the mountains on the south side of the Shimshal River to be precipitous, like those in the main Karakoram Range. The pass leads to gently curved peaks on the north, like those seen in the Pamir. These mountains are characterized by snow-covered slopes above glacier filled valleys, separated by scree zones.

At the western extremity of the Chot-Pert Group, we saw a group of needle-like peaks. In the Chot-Pert-Nala, a deep gorge splits, higher up, into two valleys, surrounded by the rock walls of Chot-Pert-Sar (5,950m) and Phurzin-Pert-Sar (5,900m). Even the villagers don’t go into this valley. Joi-Dur was not named on any map, but Shimshalis refers to a valley of that name. It divides into two parallel glaciers 4 kilometers from the main valley, both flowing northward. Both glaciers were much larger than we had imagined. The East Joi-Dur Glacier is about 8 kilometers long, extending from the south icefall, below a 5,930m peak (the peak surveyed by M. Spender of Shipton’s party). The West Joi-Dur Glacier is about 5 km long, joined by the overflow from the middle of the east glacier of Phurzin-i-Dur. Although it had been reported that there are seven peaks over 6,000m in the Chot-Pert Group, based on our observations from Mungarig-Sar and Kuz-Sar, only a few peaks in the central part of Phurzin-i-Dur are that high. The topography of this group is complicated, and a revision of the existing maps is needed.

Based on the view from three peaks we ascended in the Shuijerab Glacier area (Mungarig-Sar, Kuz-Sar, and Halshamas-Sar), there are six peaks over 6,000m. Most are unnamed, but one was named Halshamas-Sar, after our porter.

Although existing maps show 6,400m peaks in the Shuwert Glacier area, we found none that high. We only saw some ca 6,150m peaks on the ridge dividing the East Shuijerab and Shuwert Glaciers. Though we had intended to look at the south side of the Chot-Pert Group from Khurdopin Pass, we ran out of time. Also, the north side of the Shujerab Group is still unknown, and will stay that way until the southwest part of the Oprang River is opened up.

Tadashi Kamei, Yokohama Alpine Club (translated by Kei Kurachi)