History of Kashmir
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The silk road
1821, William Moorcroft
1835, GT Vigne
1847, Vans Agrew and Yong
1848, A. Kunningham, H. Strachey, T. Thomson
1855, Herman, Adolf and Robert Schlagintweit
1856, Thomas Mongomerie
1861, Henry Haversham Godwin Austen
1862, Frederic Drew
1868, G. Hayward

1887, F. Younghusband
1890, George Robertson
1892, George Cockeril
1895, A.F. Mummery
1898, Fanny Bullock Workman and William Hunter Workman
1899, Arthur Neve
1902, expédition internationale au K2
1908, Fanny Bullock Workman and William Hunter Workman
1909, Duc des Abruzzes
1912, Fanny Bullock Workman and William Hunter Workman
1913, Filippo de Filippi, Dainelli, Henry Wood
1914, Filippo de Filippi
1922, le dr Visser
1929, Duc Aimone Roberto di Savoïa-Aosta
1930, Giotto Fainelli
1934, G.O. Dyhrenfurth
1936, H. de Ségogne
1937, B. Tilman and Eric Shipton
1938, Charles Houston
1939, F.H. Wiesner, E. Shipton
1946, J.O. Roberts

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The Silk Road went through the Oriental Karakoram. As from Ladakh at Sin-Kiang, the caravans which were heavily loaded with precious goods had to go through the Karakoram mountain range and then through Kun Lun. The trip took one month and they left before the rivers got too high. The

Thangman glacier (Kichik Kumdan) brutally flows in Shyok valley and built in its hollow a dangerous water wall.

exhausting passes were waiting for them ; the most feared were the Saser La (means "Yellow Earth") at 5300m between the Nubra and Shylok valleys and the Karakoram pass at 5575m. It was difficult to get lost ; white skeletons could be seen on the never ending moraines, they indicated the right way and this path was called "the Skeleton Path". One amongst the many awful legends that was whispered at the rest stops between Leh and Yarkand says "Adventurous merchants went looking for a short cut at the Skyangpoche crossing called the "Magnificent Ass" and went up north to go through the Mamostong pass ; they got swallowed up by fog and no-one ever saw them again". Apparently, once the Saser La had been gone through, just after the Saser Brangsa, the easiest way to get to the Karakoram was to follow Shyok and go through the Karakoram pass. (where Darwin mentioned the "Black Stones" pass) The tree dangerous glaciers of the Shyok valley, when there's a rapid advance, block the uphill valley, the Chong Kumdan (meaning the "Black Barrier"), the Kichik Kumdan (meaning the "Little Barrier") and the Thangman (meaning "Scar"), the Thangman was later renamed "Scar". The passage, at first dangerous then becomes impossible ; thereafter, a lake is formed at the back of the barrier which as soon as the glacier retreats, explodes under the enormous accumulated water pressure. The flood, always unexpected, is of extreme violence ; in June 1835, it destroyed everything for 250 Km up to Deskit and Tegur at the Nubra junction - the caravans had no other choice but to wade through the water and then go over the high Depsang plains. But whenever possible, the merchants and pilgrims who took the shortest ways, went up the right bank of Shyok, then the Chipchap to find the main itinerary at Daulat Beg Oldi-Ou (means the "Prince of the Kingdom of Dead"). First though, they had to work their way through a block of pale rock brought by the first of the three glaciers (under the top of Aktash which also means "White Stone

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1821, William Moorcroft :

William Moorcroft a full time veterinary and explorer in his free time, was probably the first European to discover the Karakoram mountain range by its oriental slopes. He left India with the idea to buy horses in either Yarkand or Kashgar. He went through the Nubra valley in 1821 but could not cross because of the army ; he did not carry with him a permit made out by the Sikh commanders who at that time, controlled the territory of Ladakh.

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1835, GT Vigne :

G.T. Vigne was the first European to really penetrate the Karakoram. Thereafter, he undertook four expeditions and was the first to describe the huge mountain area. In 1838, Thomas Vigne left for these mountains to look for the river Shyok's spring, an important affluent of the Indus. He was hindered in this step by the Sikh commanders who at that time controlled the Ladakh area and so decided not to take the Leh passage but to join the Nubra valley, which at that time was hardly ever uses, and went throught the Saltoro pass, a peak that dissuaded Vigne to go any further because of the bad weather conditions.

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1847, Vans Agrew and Yong :

The lieutenants Vans Agrew and Yong were the first westerners to reach Gilgit. They opened the doors to more systematic exploration of this region.

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1848, Alexander Kunningham, Henry Strachey, Thomas Thomson :

After the Sikhs' influence in the Ladakh area diminished and the British became more influential, the road to Central Asia was reopened. Alexander Kunningham, Henry Strachey and Dr. Thomas Thomson were the first Europeans to travel the high road towards Central Asia by going through the Saser La and the Karakoram pass and by doing so, they went through the separation line of the waters between India and ex Turkestan (Xinh Yang, Chinese).

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1855, Herman, Adolf and Robert Schlagintweit :

R. Schlagintweit

Between 1855 and 1856, the brothers Herman, Adolf and Robert Schlagintweit were the second Europeans to tread the Karakoram (Karakoram pass). They had been recommended by Alexander Von Humboldt and brought back with them references regarding anthropology and the nature of this region. They covered the Deosai plain, the Nanga Parbat and Haramosh regions, the Baltoro and Biafo glaciers and even went through the Bilafond pass. Adolf further went to Concordia and was the first to discover the Muztagh pass.

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1856, Thomas Mongomerie :

It was Thomas Mongomerie who became the first to be conscious of the real dimension of the mountain range while he was studying the topography in India. From a geographic station on top of the Haramukh summit in Cashmere, he positioned through triangulation, a series of 32 summits to whom he gave the letter "K" (K for Karakoram), then added a number. Once, his observations recalculated in 1958, the K2 turned out to be the second highest mountain on earth.

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1861, Henry Haversham Godwin Austen :

Henry Haversham Godwin Austen was to actually see the K2 in 1861 with his own eyes. At the end of a team expedition, where he discovered the Hispar glacier and crossed the pass with the same name, and before redescending the Biafo glacier up to the Askole village, he made a little incursion onto the Baltoro glacier. He had really decided to see K2 so he declined Baltoro and climbed with urge above the Urdokas camp. He was able to make a rough sketch of the huge pyramid that overlooked the crests.

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1862, Frederic Drew :

Frederic Drew explored the Ishkoman province, the Shimshall and Barsha valleys between 1862 and 1871.

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1868, G. Hayward :

In 1868, G, Hayward was sent out to explore the high region of the Karakoram for military reasons because at that time there was strong tenseness and a war risk with Russia and the Tsars. His first thought was to follow the north road of the Khyber garrison town of Peshawar through the Dir and Chitral states and then the Wakhan passage. However, when the governor of the Penjab province heard about this plan, he would not allow Hayward to take this direction. He thus left, disguised as a trader from Pathan hoping to be discreet - the real danger existed in the encounter of natives whose reputation was disloyalty and blood-thirst, like the Chitalis, the Kirghizis and the Wakhis at that time.

All kinds of reported information regarding the Karakoram, western Turkestan, and Yarkand that was spread around Kashgar, immediately made out of Hayward as an important explorer as Livingston and Burton. His descriptions of the expedition and narrations are full of details including the information of the tribes in that district and are of unestimated value . However, he paid a high price for his curiosity. He was assassinated in 1870 in Darkot by Mir Walli who worried about the cartography of his valley becoming known.

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1887, F. Younghusband :

F. Younghusband made an incursion into this region during his surprising travels from Pekin to Delhi ; by going through the Gobi desert and Cashmere at the end of the 20th century. He went through the Shaksgam valley and the Sarpo Laggo glacier, the Muztagh pass, the Turkestan pass, the Shimshal pass, the Mintaka pass and then entered the Hunza valley from the north. He was the first to be able to admire the huge north side of K2 and exclaimed the following "A mountain of impressing dimensions. One might call it a perfect cone but incredibly high ". At the end of his trip, he wrote "The Heart of a Continent" wherein he describes the region as one of the highest art places, literature, thought and architecture of the world. Describing the ruins of the Martanda temple, Younghusband writes, "How could a moved or destructive mind be able to choose a place of such beauty and build such a perfect piece of work ?" One could consider this to be a resume of the greatness of Cashmere and its people at that time, now so long ago.

Yonghesbands comments in theKarakoram page :

Discover Sarpo Laggo area :
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1890, George Robertson :

George Robertson was the first westerner to see the Hindu Kush mountain range of Afghanistan.

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1892, G. Cockerill :

George Cockerill explored the region between the Chitral and the Hunza valleys and was the first from the west to bring back references from this area. G. Cockerill discovered the Shimshal valley, through which he went up to the pass that opens into the Shaksgam valley and furthermore to Chinese Turkestan (now Xhin Yang). There, he was able to see the first of the impressing summits of Pumari Chich and Khunyang Chich from the Yazghill glacier. From the Malagutti glacier, he was also the first to discover the majesty of the Disteghil Sar double summit. During two years, he was able to discover more than other previous explorers.

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1895, A.F. Mummery :


A.F. Mummery tentatively tried to climb in 1895 (first also of 8000) the upright side of the summit up to approx. 7000m. (alpine style of remarkable performance, this alpine style was way ahead of his time). He disappeared in a gap in Diama with two gurkhas when they tried to go around the Rakhiot ice. G. Hastings and J. Norman Collie were waiting for them on the Rakhiot glacier but never saw them again. The first try of an Himalayan summit shows an under estimation of the Himalayan scale and lack of means to undertake a mountain ascend of such an importance. However, Mummery was the "first to rope" and came from great mountain climbing lineage who were pioneers, he'll always be considered as one of the greatest mountaineers of the world at all times. Herman Buhl succeeded to conquer this mountain 58 years later.

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1898, Fanny Bullock Workman and William Hunter Workman :

Les Bullocks

The brave Fanny Bullock Workman and her husband William Hunter Workman accomplished no less than seven great expeditions in the Karakoram between 1898 and 1908 and published a great number of works which are richly illustrated with sketches and articles. They also tried to ascend a number of summits in the Spantik region from the Chogo Lungma glacier (south side).

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1899, Arthur Neve :

In 1899, the year of the first explorations in the Siachen region, Arthur Neve made a try to ascend the Saser Muztagh - without success. He came back to the region in 1907 at Chong Kumdan.

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1902, K2 international expédition :

The team, Eckenstein to the right

K2 came into mountain climbing history in 1902. In June of that year, a small international expedition set up by the English O. Eckentein, G. Knowles and A.E. Crowley, the Austrians H. Pfanni and V. Wessley and the Swiss Jacot-Guillarmot, went up the Baltoro with more than 100 strong porters hoping to conquer the K2 with lots of optimism. But bad weather blocked them for a couple of days and Pfanni had bronchitis, they had to go back down. This first try to ascend was the only one on the east slope.

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1908, Fanny Bullock Workman and William Hunter Workman :

Fanny bullock
Fanny Bullock managed to climb the Woodman peak and evaluated the surface of the Snow Lake at 700Km2 (which was lowered to 45Km2 when E. Shipton made a precise geographic account in 1939).


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1909, Duc of Abruzzes :

Le duc des abruzzes, Tom Longstaff

Louis Amedee, famous duke of Abruzzes, was the first Italian who played with the idea to master the K2. In love with mountains ever since he was an adolescent, Louis de Savoie had already done a large number of expeditions, amongst them was the ascend of the Saint-Elie mountain in Alaska (in 1897), when he decided to adventure the glaciers of the Asian mountains and more particularly those of the Karakoram. The expedition took place during spring and summer of 1909. It was preceded by intense preparations which took the duke to London where, under a false name, he was able to study the documents concerning these far away countries and which belonged to the Royal Geographical Society. He also went to Paris where he bought the necessary equipment. To accompany him, he chose hardened and qualified mountain climbers who, during preceding teamwork, probably had shown their attachment. Flippo De Filippi, doctor and physiologist, a member of the Saint-Elie expedition, was amongst them, just like the lieutenant of the boat Federico Negrotto, flag lieutenant of the duke and map specialist. These men were accompanied by guides, all Valldotains Courmayeur - like Guiseppe Petigax, who had also participated in the Saint-Elie ascend and Vittorio Sella, mountaineer and photographer, a friend of the duke and especially highly knowledgeable of these high mountains in Asia. The expedition left Srinagar in the second half of April. After a long walk through Cashmere and the Sind valley and after some logistical stops in the Skardu oasis, the capital of Baltistan as well as Askole, the group accompanied by 260 porters, reached the Baltoro glacier. For the first time, a photographer, Vittorio Sella, was able to stabilize the famous K2 onto his plates. However, the mountain was not as easy to tame as they had expected. After two unsuccessful tries, which took the duke and his adventurous companions up to 6700m, the little group gave up on the K2 and turned towards the Bridge Peak (Chogolisa) part of the Golden Throne group. The new altitude record of 7493m lasted until 1921 ; they went through many difficulties at 7400m and J. Pentigax H. and H. Brocherel de Courmayeur were forced to stop at 150m from the summit because of heavy fog. All just proved, that after a certain period of adapting to altitude, human beings could survive at more than 6000m. Even though the main sport goal had not been attained, the explorers had obtained many information, especially the photogrammetric prints which enabled to set up a map at a large scale (1/100 000) of the basins of the Baltoro and Godwin Austen glaciers. They also collected a huge amount of information concerning the morphology, the lithology and the climate of the region. Vittorio Sella's lovely images are without doubt, one of the finest choices amongst the results. With the help of Erminio Botta, another photographer, he immortalized for the first time, the hardships and splendors of the savage region which allowed them to definitely enter photographic history. These exposures of exceptional quality brought about that other mountaineers from all over the world, became interested in this mountain range. Using a camera, able to expose glass plates of 30x40 cm, Sella took more than 800 exceptional exposures during this expedition. These photos were bought by many respectful institutions like the Royal Geographic Society, the Alpine Club in London and the Geographic Society in Washington.

The famous Tom Longstaff got rid of the mystery concerning the Shyok spring where preceding explorers had not found a solution for the last 56 years (Strachey in 1853, William Johnson in 1864, Robert Shaw in 1869, Sir Douglas Forsyth in 1893). He went up the Shyok, up to its ultimate spring of the Rimo glacier.

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1912, Fanny Bullock Workman and William Hunter Workman :

Fanny bullock

In 1912 during one of their many expeditions, the famous Bullock couple christened the extreme north west of the Siachen pass "Indira pass" without this having any connection to the ex Prime Minister Indira Gandhi from India. The Workmen also made an incursion into the Kaphalu region and its glaciers the same year.




Discover Siachen glacier :

Image satellite du glacier du Siachen

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See the same topics :

Climbing in Kashmir
Conflict of Kashmir
Historical statistics
Index historiques
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