Location: Ishkoman Valley, Western Karakoram, Pakistan.

Date: August/September 1999

Team: Adam Thomas, Walter Keller, William Cadell, Bryan Godfrey, Jock Jeffery, Simon Woods.

Objective: Exploring the side valleys of the Karambar Glacier and making first ascents.

Achievements: New route and 2nd ascent of Kutshkulin Sar (c5900m); new rock route above base camp.

Porters approaching our idyllic base camp.

The fertile landscape of northern Pakistan.

The "road" to base camp.

The serac band on the west face of Kutshkulin Sar
(climbers bottom left).

Kutshkulin Sar with part of the 1998 German route marked (see text). Our route traversed the face from right of shot to join the col and continued on the far side of the mountain. (Photo by Markus Walter).

The upper section of the west face of Kutshkulin Sar. (Photo Markus Walter).

Camp 2 (bottom left) from high on Kutshkulin Sar.

Competition for the most heroic summit shot was intense…

With both contestants failing miserably.

Camp 1 on Kutshkulin Sar, looking
towards Soargen Peak.

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Very little was known about the secretive tributary glaciers of the Karambar Glacier, as the area had been previously visited by only one documented climbing party, the German Saxonia Expedition in 1998. This very experienced team made the first ascent of Kutshkulin Sar, (their route is pictured above), Yeti Sar (5980m) and Sax Sar (5999m). The team have climbed new routes all over the world and are planning an ascent and ski descent of Gasherbrum II in 2001. Their website can be found at www.alpinclub.com and gives details of their climbs (in German).

The following summary is adapted from a report that appeared in the American Alpine Journal 2000.

The Karambar Glacier lies at the northern limit of the Ishkoman Valley with the surrounding mountains forming the extreme western boundary of the Karakoram range. The whole region has received little attention in comparison with the widely travelled eastern Karakoram, and was chosen for it's new route potential on sub 6000m peaks.

Access via the Ishkoman Valley was made difficult by widespread seasonal flooding, but a fine base camp was established in a small ablation valley adjacent to the true right bank of the main Karambar Glacier. From here two weeks of exploration and reconnaissance ensued, the result of which was a decision to concentrate on the peaks at the head of the Kutshkulin Glacier that runs north from the Karambar itself. Using information gained from two acclimatisation climbs above the Kutshkulin Glacier, a peak subsequently found to be Kutshkulin Sar (c5900m), was finally attempted.

Following a two day approach to the mountain via advanced base camp, camp one was established high on a ridge above a tributary of the Kutshkulin Glacier. From here, two teams climbed the initial slopes beyond camp to the start of the large and heavily crevassed west face, one team electing to place an intermediate camp here, the other continuing on. This face was found to be the technical crux of the ascent with much route finding through seracs and climbing of up to 80 degrees.

A col to the North of Kutshkulin Sar was reached and a high camp established at the foot of the final summit pyramid. From here it was a short and relatively easy ascent for both parties, following a line over a serac barrier, across a small plateau and finally joining the upper section of the east ridge which lead quite steeply to the summit.

Descent to high camp was via the same route, but a more direct line to intermediate camp was found through the seracs of the west face. From here one team retraced the initial approach, with the other descending more easily via a small glacier to reach a point just below camp one.

The summit was reached on 29th August 1999, the ascent took six days from base camp and was given a grade of Alpine D. First climbed in 1998 by the strong German team, this represented the second ascent of Kutshkulin Sar and was a new and completely independent line.

Although access throughout the region was generally difficult due to lean snow conditions and large and very active icefalls, much potential exists for further exploratory climbing in the Karambar Glacier area, albeit of a high technical standard.

If you are interested in visiting this region and would like to read the full expedition report, it is available for download here (20kb zip file).

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