British firsts in remote Ladakh

Posted by Lindsay Griffin on 16/10/2010
Peaks of the Thanglasgo Valley region. Chris Horobin

Approved by the BMC, Chris Horobin's primarily British expedition succeeded on two first ascents above the Nubra Valley, escaping just before heavy rains caused devastating floods in Northern India.

Over the previous three years Horobin has led British Schools Exploring Society (BSES) expeditions to the little visited group of mountains that lie north of Leh and south west of the military road through the Nubra Valley to the Siachen Glacier.

Prior to the BSES trips, previous ascents in this region have largely been made by Indian teams and visiting Sherpas, dating from the late 1990s. However, in 2007 a commercially-organized Jagged Globe expedition picked off several new peaks.

This summer Horobin returned on a private venture to attempt the unclimbed Telthop (6,010m), which he had spotted during 2009.

Unfortunately, washed out bridges prevented travel on their intended approach, and two forays to reach the base of the mountain by alternative routes through unexplored valleys were also equally unsuccessful.

Instead, the eight-member group operated from the main Thanglasgo Valley, which forms the initial stages of a trekking route from Hundar on the Shyok River south to Leh over the Lasirmou Pass.

Reconnaissance showed an accessible peak in a side valley east of the Thanglasgo, marked on the map as 5,850m and confirmed by the expedition Sherpas to be unclimbed. The team was also rewarded with views of a possible route to another reportedly unclimbed peak lying immediately to the north of Shabib Chasser (aka Sahib Chaser, a 6,050m summit climbed by the 2007 Jagged Globe expedition).

From a high camp Andrea Bainbridge, Sarah Reynolds, Bob Shiels and Horobin climbed Peak 5,850m via its short 60° North West Face and sharp North East Ridge at F, recording a GPS altitude of 5,870m.

In their remaining few days they attempted the unclimbed peak north of Shabib Chassar, to the west of the Thanglasgo Valley.

Warm weather and poor snow conditions made the largely rocky South East Ridge the most logical option, and from a high camp Reynolds, Shiels and Horobin climbed for nine hours up the crest, with a crux of Severe, to reach the summit.

The route was given an overall grade of AD+ and a GPS reading on top showed an altitude of 5,995m. The three descended the North East Ridge on alarmingly soft snow

They ended the trip with a two-day trek to Leh over the 5,550m Lasirmou La, arriving immediately before the huge cloudburst that devastated the town and surrounding area. After a 24-hour delay during which the airport was cleared of debris, they were able to fly to Delhi.

Several expeditions arriving in India at or after this time, notably Japanese teams hoping to explore valleys in Ladakh and Zanskar, were unable to get further than Delhi and had to return home empty handed.

The photograph shows peaks west of the Sniamo Valley, itself a westerly branch of the Thanglasgo. The highest visible, over 6,000m, remains unclimbed.
 



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