Peak(s):  Yawash Sar Middle 18,982'
Ghidims Sar/Igis Peak 19,731'
Yawash Sar II 20,095'
Gasherbrum II 26,352'
Date Posted:  11/29/2022
Date Climbed:   06/15/2022
Author:  mattr9
 1st Descents and High Altitude Skiing in the Karakoram   

Pakistan 2022 Ski Mountaineering Expedition

1st Ski Descents in Ghidims Valley and Skiing on Gasherbrum II

From June 4th-June 29th, I was joined by Chris Kussmaul (Skier, Bozeman, MT) and Bill Copeland (Splitboarder, Winter Park, CO) as we explored a rarely visited area, Ghidims Valley, near Shimshal in the Hunza District, Gilgit Region, of the Gilgit-Baltistan Province. Then, from June 30th-August 5th, Bill headed home, and Chris and I were joined by Jessica Shade (Skier, Salt Lake City, UT) to attempt to climb and ski Gasherbrum II (8,035m/26,362’) in good style (No fixed lines, no sherpa, no supplemental oxygen) in the Baltoro area near Skardu.

After some VISA issues delayed me 4 days, I met up with Chris and Bill in Karimabad on June 7th, the capitol of the Hunza District. We drove to Shimshal the next day and prepared to start trekking up and over Boesum Pass. We trekked up and over Boesum Pass, taking a rest day as Chris evacuated his bowls due to a food related illness, and arrived at our basecamp (Laili Base Camp, ~14,600’) at the fork of the North and South Ghidims rivers, on June 12th. The only other life that joined us and our cooks at basecamp was a herd of yaks!

The herd of yaks that we shared basecamp with.

Basecamp, right on the shores of the South Ghidims river, looking upstream

Yawash Sar Middle, South Face, 1st Ski & Splitboard Descent

Yawash Sar Middle, South Face

On June 14th, we set up a high camp at ~16,700’ and set our sights on our first objective, Yawash Sar Middle (5,786m/18,982’). We did a quick recon of the approach up the “Right Ice Flow” of the North Ghidims Glacier and got eyes on Yawash Sar Middle. The South face appeared in great condition for skiing; spirits were high as we skied back to our high camp.

Chris, with Yawash Sar Middle in the background on our recon

An early start the next morning had us skinning on fast refrozen snow to the base of the peak. We decided on a mellow gully to access the ridge to the Southeast of the summit and enjoyed firm snow up to the ridge, where it became more breakable, and we post holed a bit. We summited pretty soon and were presented with breathtaking views of both China and Pakistan in all directions, we were on the border between China/Pakistan on the summit.

Bill Copeland on the final stretch to the summit ridge (Photo: Chris Kussmaul)

Ski conditions were very firm, but edge-able, perfect for Chris and I, as we have two edges to work with. Bill, on his splitboard, was not as happy with the conditions, but made safe and controlled turns. We skied down the south face, weaving between rock bands, all the way down to the base where we kept our momentum and skied all the way back to camp with Yawash Sar II towering above. A successful first objective.

Bill Copeland making cautious turns on firm snow (Photo: Chris Kussmaul)

Chris skiing back to high camp, with Yawash Sar II looming above

Yawash Sar Middle Ski Video

Ghidims Sar/Igis Peak, Northwest Ridge, 1st Ski & Splitboard Descent
“Cache Peak”, West Face, 1st Ski & Splitboard Descent

After a storm rolled through for about a week and kept us at basecamp, we headed back up to high camp on June 22nd and sat out another day of so-so weather. The recent snow had accumulated about a foot or so and giving it a day to settle made us feel better about avalanche concerns. The next day we left early in bitter cold and wind to attempt to link up two peaks. Ghidims Sar/Igis Peak (Igis is how it is referred in other publications, locals called it Ghidims Sar, I will refer to it as Ghidims Sar) is tucked back in the “Left Ice Flow” of the North Ghidims Glacier at 6,014m/19,731’. The second peak, which we had come to refer to as “Cache Peak” due to having a good view of it from our ski cache at the toe of the North Ghidims Glacier, was a neighboring peak to Ghidims Sar, separated by a corniced saddle.

Bill, with the Northwest Ridge of Ghidims Sar behind, taken from the saddle between Ghidims Sar and "Cache Peak"

"Cache Peak" West Face, as seen from our ski gear cache at the toe of the North Ghidims Glacier

We climbed the slope up to the saddle and I led the way trenching through a section of cornice that had broken off and left behind a near vertical section of snow. I hip belayed both Chris and Bill up to the saddle, as the bitter cold and wind set in. Once everyone was on the saddle, we headed up the Northwest Ridge of Ghidims Sar and quickly gained the summit where we defrosted toes/hands.

Me, climbing through the cornice to gain access tot he ridge/saddle between Ghidims Sar and "Cache Peak"

We skied back down the Northwest ridge to the saddle and experienced breakable crust, a skiers least favorite condition. Once at the saddle, we switched to skins and headed up the Southeast Ridge of “Cache Peak” to the summit and gazed down the West Face, which connected with the toe of the North Ghidims Glacier.

Chris leading the way up the Southeast ridge to "Cache Peak" after we skied back down the Northeast Ridge of Ghidims Sar

One by one, we skied down the West Face, negotiating obvious signs of crevasses and eventually reaching the moraine on the side of the North Ghidims Glacier. We took a rest here and then continued onto the North Ghidims Glacier and skinned a short distance back up to our high camp.

Bill busting through the breakable crust on "Cache Peak's" West face
Chris making turns in the breakable crust down "Cache Peak's" West Face

Yawash Sar II, West Face, 2nd Ascent/Descent Attempt

Yawash Sar II, West Face as seen from our high camp. We got within ~300' of the summit and bailed due to conditions.

The next two days, June 24th and 25th, we shifted our focus to the main attraction of the North Ghidims Glacier: Yawash Sar II (6,125m/20,095’). I had found this peak in the AAJ in the winter of 2020/2021 and was surprised that it was unclimbed/unskied at the time, and I vowed to give it an attempt. That spring, Andrzej Bargiel (The G.O.A.T. of Ski Mountaineering), set his sights on Yawash Sar II and successfully skied it. Even though we hoped to give it a first ascent/descent attempt, following in the footsteps of Andrzej is quite the honor. The West Face of Yawash Sar II is broken into two halves. The first half is the wide-open lower face which is 40-45 degree continuously. The Upper half is peppered with small rock bands and gullies and averages 50-55 degrees, with measurements on certain features above 55 degrees. The most sustained steep ski objective I've ever attempted.

On our first attempt, we got most of the way up the lower face and decided to bail, as we did not get an early enough start and there was still a lot of new snow on the face, which we were confident would shed throughout the day. We skied pretty good snow down the lower face down to high camp and watched as the West Face shed snow all day, a good confirmation to us bailing.

Bill and Chris making their way up the lower West Face, we bailed soon after this point

Bill Copeland at our high point on our 1st attempt

Bill Copeland making his way down the lower West face

The next day we got an earlier start and soon were on the lower face. Bill turned back due to a cough that was made worse from the surprisingly cold temps. Chris and I made quick work of the lower face and soon were heading up a 50-degree gully feature.

Morning colors from Yawash Sar II's West face. Our high camp is near the confluence of the "Left Ice Flow" and "Right Ice Flow" separated by the small moraine

First light on some peaks across the valley above our high camp

The snow up high had not shed like the lower face but was still shallow and was sitting on top of a bed surface of alpine ice. We front pointed up the gully and traversed a small rib to get onto the final summit slope. Here, we encountered a foot thick slab on top of a foot of large grain facets on top of the bed surface of alpine ice. We both expressed concern for the snow in regard to ski conditions and snot stability. I made the comment “I don’t want to summit and feel like we got away with it" and we decided to bail ~300’ from the summit. We downclimbed to the top of the lower face and skied back to camp. The avalanches we had watched the day prior made the lower face a maze of tall runnels and icy bed surface that proved tricky and time consuming to ski down. Once back at our high camp, we packed up and headed back down to basecamp. We would have loved to have summited and skied Yawash Sar II, and there were a few other objectives in the area we had our sights on, but we walked away with no feelings of regret and very satisfied.

The snow walls we left behind from our high camp, with Yawash Sar II in all her majesty

The day after our second attempt on Yawash Sar II, June 26th, we began the trek back out, reaching Shimshal on June 27th.

Chris, with some of the scenery of Boesum Pass in the background

Zartbargeen, on the southern side of Boesum Pass, with the Shimshal White Horn on the background

The next day, we drove the Karakoram Highway to Skardu, where we said goodbye to Bill and greeted Jessica, for our attempt on Gasherbrum II without the aid of fixed lines, sherpa/porters, or supplemental oxygen.

Gasherbrum II (8,035m/26,352’), Southwest Ridge, Summit Ski Attempt

After celebrating my 30th birthday in Skardu on June 29th, we left Skardu on July 1st and trekked up the Baltoro Glacier, arriving to our basecamp on July 7th. Jessica got sick on the trek in, which would plague her for the rest of the trip.

30th Birthday celebration shenanigans with Bill (left)

Upon arriving, we only had time for a single rotation up Gasherbrum II to camp 1 at ~19,500’ on July 9th/.10th before going for our summit push. We were not adequately acclimatized, but we managed to sleep up at camp 3 at ~23,500’ on July 20th, and Chris and I made a summit attempt starting at 11pm that night. High winds near camp 4 at ~24,000’ at 2am turned us around; Our safety margin had worn too thin for being self-supported with no fixed lines and no supplemental oxygen. The next morning, Chris and I skied down from camp 3 (~23,500') to camp 1 ~19,500'), which was a special moment because the snow conditions were surprisingly good for skiing on such a big peak (firm, edge able, and consistent). The next day we all made it back down to basecamp in one piece.

Jess, with camps 1 and 2 below. Taken from a few hundred feet below camp 3

Jess and Chris, with GI in the background. Taken a few hundred feet below camp 3

Me, making turns down GII with GI in the background. Taken right below camp 3

A few days later, I was inspired by one of the most prolific 8,000m peak climbers ever, and my friend, Denis Urubko. I decided to make a solo push attempt from basecamp (~17,500’) starting at 5pm on July 23rd since we weren't leaving basecamp until the 26th and I didn't want to wait around. I was still very tired from our previous summit push, which we had just gotten back from a day earlier, and only made it a little above camp 2 at ~22,000’ before bailing. On my way down I passed Bartek Ziemski, a Polish ski mountaineer we met in Skardu. He would go on to ski both Broad Peak (8,051m/26,414’) and Gasherbrum II in the season, impressive to say the least.

We left basecamp on July 26th and within four days were back in Skardu, where we had to wait for about a week for our gear to make it back to us on August 3rd before we all headed to Islamabad and parted ways. I flew home with two major objectives unchecked, but still very satisfied with what we did and more importantly, how we did it. I will be back to the Karakoram, the greatest arena in the world.

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Comments or Questions
11/30/2022 09:00
Great trip report. This is some of the gnarliest skiing I've ever seen! Great job on the photos as well.
Good luck on future mountains!

Dan the Trip Leader
11/30/2022 17:04
Thanks for sharing!

12/02/2022 20:14
You're my hero! Killer pics and work!

Greatest arena in the world
12/03/2022 15:08
Happy to see you did this trip after seeing your maps/plans a few years back. Those are some nice ski lines, thanks for posting.

12/05/2022 19:59
So gnarly! huge congrats

gnarly work
12/16/2022 10:14
sick trip report, great pics. Skiing in karakoram is definitely on my bucket list

All time
12/17/2022 19:52
Congrats! Awesome objectives

01/19/2023 15:23
Always been afraid of the Himalaya. Very inspiring.

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