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Polish Team Authors New Routes in the Tagas Mountains

Tomasz Klimczak, Maciej Bedrejczuk, Marcin Wernik and Maciej Janczar simul-climb on the upper section of the Polish Couloir (ED2, M7- AI5 90 degrees, 1500m) on the Ogre. After three days of mixed climbing, ice climbing and dry-tooling, the four men retreated from a notch below the unclimbed summit.

[Photo] Tagas Expedition 2015

The Tagas Mountains, a small subrange of the Masherbrum Mountains south of K6 (7282m) in Pakistan’s Karakoram region, has been off limits to alpinists for years. The Pakistani military, which had skirmishes with India in 2013 and 2014 over a disputed border, restricted access to the area. In 2015, however, four members of the Polish National Alpinism Team–Tomasz Klimczak, Maciej Bedrejczuk, Marcin Wernik and Maciej Janczar–received a permit to be the first expedition to climb in the area. The climbers ascended three rocky peaks above two arms of the Lachit Valley during a month-long visit in September. They completed first ascents of two unclimbed mountains and a new route to a saddle on another they called The Ogre, but failed to reach its pointed summit.

The team traveled past the tiny village of Lachit and then northwest up Lachit Valley, a deep valley twelve miles south of K6 (7282m), to a base camp below a moraine at 4000 meters. After acclimatizing, they ascended a pointed granite peak, dubbed Goat Peak (4991m), west of their camp.

The team climbed steep ice gullies to the summit ridge of Dream Walker Peak (5809m) on the first ascent of their route Rolling (D)Ice (ED1/2 M5 AI5 80 degrees, 1450m).

[Photo] Tagas Expedition 2015

The next objective was another unclimbed 5809-meter peak above base camp. On the first attempt, they climbed a glacier to a bivouac below the upper face but retreated the next morning because of avalanche danger. They tried again on September 4, climbing past the bivy spot and then simul-climbing 300 meters up ice slopes. Above, they worked up rock and ice gullies for ten pitches until nightfall. After two more pitches, they made an unplanned bivy at 5600 meters on a small ledge atop a rock buttress.

Snow fell that night from 2 a.m. until dawn, but the climbers, despite bad weather and a lack of sleep, continued up. Three more pitches, including the AI5 crux ice pitch up unprotected 15mm-thick ice, led to the narrow summit ridge. The four simul-climbed the ridge to the summit of what they later called Dream Walker Peak, reaching the top at 3 p.m. in thick fog. They started the descent in late afternoon, making 14 rappels in darkness from ice threads and piton anchors in constant snow and spindrift while “chilled to the marrow and exhausted,” Klimczak said. The team reached their tents on the glacier at 2:30 a.m. The route was named Rolling (D)Ice (ED1/2 M5 AI5 80 degrees, 1450m).

The Tagas Expedition climbed 16 pitches up the new route Rolling (D)Ice over two days in early September on the first ascent of Dream Walker Peak in the previously restricted Tagas Mountains.

[Photo] Tagas Expedition 2015

The team moved camp to another arm of the Lachit Valley a couple days later, planning to attempt several peaks. After scouting lines, they decided to attempt an imposing face with airy ridges and a sharp summit that they called the Ogre. The chosen line followed a couloir up the northeast face. After a bad weather spell, the team left base camp on September 18 and climbed to a higher camp below the face with four days of supplies.

The team climbed the steep Polish Couloir (ED2, M7- AI5 90 degree, 1500m) on the unclimbed Ogre over three days, ending at a high notch below the summit. After receiving an updated poor weather forecast from base camp, the climbers retreated, making 27 rappels back down the route.

[Photo] Tagas Expedition 2015

On the first day, the four men simul-climbed 150 meters up the couloir, then roped up for nine steep ice pitches interrupted by another simul-climbing section to a bivy on snow. On day two they climbed 450 meters up the couloir on steep M5 terrain to another ice ledge bivy. The third day brought hard climbing up steep ice, an overhanging chimney, and M7 dry-tooling to a notch at 6004 meters. A rocky ridge headed north to the Ogre’s summit but it was already late afternoon and the weather appeared ominous.

After checking the forecast, they decided to retreat, reaching the top bivouac late that night. The next day they rappelled down the couloir, reaching their tents at advanced base camp in the late afternoon on September 22. They named the route the Polish Couloir (ED2, M7 AI5 90 degrees, 1500m).

Pawel Petryna

Tagas Explored, a film of the Polish expedition by Pawel Petryna, will be released later this month.

Sources: Tomasz Klimczak, Planet Mountain, Google Earth