The last undiscovered peaks: the Tagas Mountains

By Enrico Grigoletti

Week 49
MOUNTAINEERING

It’s 2015 and still get surprised when I hear about undiscovered portions of the Planet Earth still unexplored. I mean, we conquered Mars, the deepest abyss of the Oceans and the most uncontaminated territories within equatorial forests. But still some slices of the Planet resist unviolated for several different reasons. For example a military embargo.
That’s what happened in Lachit Valley, near the Tagas mountains on the border between Pakistan and India. The valley in the Karakorum region, at the bottom of the K6 massif, is still under the Pakistan military control. The 2014-2015 skirmish and the fire exchanges between the two Goverments exacerbated the control measures over the access to that region. Exhausting negotiations between Goverments were needed to allow a group of four Polish mountaineers – Tomasz Klimczak, Maciej Bedrejczuk, Marcin Wernik and Maciej Janczar – to enter the Lachit Valley and begin their adventure. The expedition, made of members of the Polish National Alpinism Team, faced a series of summits with an average height of 6.000 m., all parts of the Tagas mountain chain.

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Montagne Tagas – Foto © Tomasz Klimczak

The polish expedition, that already faced different peaks on the Alps and winter routes on the Tatra mountains, begins their adventure on August 18 with preliminary explorations of the Lachit Valley. A first “warm up” ascension takes places on what will be named as Goat Peak (4.991 m.).
The second objective, a summit named Dream Walker Peak (5.809 m.), gave the group a few more issues with forced bivi caused by the unpredictable weather conditions and forcing the polish expedition to return to the base camp through a path with a more than explanatory name: the Rolling (D)Ice.

Their third objective, an impressively huge massif, hardly climbable from different sides, was named The Ogre for his majestic volume and size. Despite the stiff and hard faces, The Ogre had an easily accessible ice couloir north-east from the base camp. The following three days the group conquers the couloir and reaches the mountain’s saddle (6.004 m.). But reaching the peak of The Ogre in one day becomes an impossible challenge because of the risk of avalanches and the weather breakdown that could make the couloir abseil from the saddle hardly possible.

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The Ogre – Foto © Tomasz Klimczak

Later on the weather becomes unpredictable hiding the sight of the mountains to the expedition, leaving them alone with the sound of continuous avalanches. As soon as the weather becomes a little bit better, the four mountaineers head to the bivi on the glacier to get back the equipment left before a snow storm. They found tends and equipment fully covered with snow, with broken poles.
The group decided to end the expedition leaving The Ogre’s summit still untouched: with the winter approaching the Karakorum region, any attempt of ascension would have been a mission without success. On October 2 the Polish expedition leave the Lachit Valley, leaving the door open to further expeditions on The Ogre, through what have been nominated the Polish Couloir.
An open path within one of the last, unexplored areas of the Planet.