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Page 1 : Baltoro trek
Page 2 : Chitral / Nanga Parbat French expedition 2005
Page 3 : Trek on Eric Shipton footsteps : Shimshal / Askole via Braldu & Lukpe La pass


Fin juin 2005 : Following the footsteps of Eric Shipton :


Trekking on the terrible Braldu glacier

This trek was really incredible, at first about the Kulan (or Skiang), a very rare to see wild ass, about strange cimetery bones found in a cave, the first pictures took of Wesm I dur valley and in final the incredible landscape of upper Braldu, same as the frizen glacier of Snow lake.

The Shimshal pass, door to unknown :

Woman at Shugerab

The trek starts gently, in the direction of the high grazing grownds of Shimshal. The pastural life of the high Shugerab village, the simple life style and the kindness of these women forced to live at 4000m altitude for more than 8 months a year, really touched me. This year, heavy snowfalls forced 30 families to postpone the transhumance towards the high Pamirs and stay in their village 15 more days, the herd is short of grass, everyone is worried in the village. Truly, we went over the Shimshal pass during bad weather, not one day without snow during the first week. So we went through some kind of a soup over one of the main peaks who mark the separation line of the waters of Central Asia and Southern Asia. On one side, the waters loose themselves in the sands of the terrible Takla Makan desert and on the other side the waters go into the Indus ricer - who flows far to the south into the Oman see, very far to the south. Therefore, we slide into China and at the same time towards a magnificent wilderness. Oh, by the way, I noticed that the porters are no saints because on the way they cut the throat of a sheep which became our meat reserve - then a 10 hrs walk to Chikar at the foot of the Braldu river.

"Kulans" or "Skiang, the magic wild ass :

Nos yaks au Shimshal Pass

We go up the great Braldu valley and through the river by holding onto our yaks. We install our teporarly camp at the junction of the Wesm l Dur and Skorga valleys. Suddenly, there's big excitement among us because in the river bed we can distinguish a Kulan on the horizon - only Wahab had ever seen one befor. In fact, it's a Kulan couple which in the local language means "wild ass", however, everbody agrees that it's not a donkey but a horse. Straight standing ears, long legs, the animal trods through the stones with grace and suppleness, its yellow coat superbly standing out on the grey backgrownd of the river bed. We try to get closer but the animals run, then stop, always staying at a save distance, seem to be very curios to see us and to observe the way we move - I take photos. Suddenly, the animal flees towards the Wusm l Dur valley, great, it's in our direction. We check the fresh footsteps in the sand of the river, Qudrat is positif, the footsteps, the droppings, are those of a horse. The meeting with this graceful animal is out of the ordinary in this difficult stone desert. The Kulan rather seem to live in the Shaksgam valley which is the lower part, but go up into the higher adjacent valleys looking for fields to graze during summer. Going into the Wusm l Dur valley, higher up, we were happy to see this couple two more times, we were realy incredibly lucky because even for the local people, they are more mythical than real. We wish these wild horses who find their freedom far from humans and their destructive craziness.

The burial places of the Uschelga :

Going up to Uchelgas caves

My guide, Qudrat Ali Shah, knew that a cave serving as a burial grownd, existed in the Braldu valley, we visited it at the bottom of a huge monolith stone of Kartic origin in a place called Uschelga (Usc=high, elga=houses, "higher houses" or "houses from above") The entrance of this cavity is protected by an old stone wall. Yonder the wall, we find old broken and dispersed potery. In the cave itself, bones of arms and legs, the skul and the pelvis have disappeared, apparently, the cave has already been visited. The bones seem to be very old and Qudrat assured me that there were no references ever made of humans burried in this area in the Shimshal mythology. After a conversation with the locals of Shugerab, we learn that there are many caves to visit in the area, some have accessories and equipment, saddles for horses, etc. Maybe we are in the midst of the unknown history of the men who lived at that time when the great peaks of the Karakoram were used by merchants who travelled to and fro between Southern Asia and ancient Turkestan. This history is hardly known and fascinating. Already, great explorers like Younghusband , Schomberg, Conway and Erik Shipton, debated about it, this question is still valid today. How on earth, could men travel these high glacier peaks and crevasses at 6000 m altitude with their mules and horses ? (Muztagh East and West, Lukpe La, Theram Sher peaks) It's very difficult to imagine today, seeing the state of the glaciers, did the peaks at the time allow an easier passage ? Did the glaciers decline or were they more important at the time ? I recommend that you might read the page on the site concerning this subject (lien-union?) Nothing, for the moment, allows to find a solution to this mystery, however, I'm sure that answers can be found in the Uschelga caves. We visited three more cavities, smaller ones, without any success but we didn't have enough time to do serious research work. Erik Shipton wrote: "It would be interesting for history to send an expedition to these countries to trace the remains of old itinaries, to locolise housing ruins and determine the historic migration of the primitif people of these isolated mountainous regions" It's quite obvious that a scientific mission would allow to clarify many secrets concerning the ancient life style of men in these reclusif valleys. Archeologists could probably easily date the bones, give the origins, only time and scientific skill is needed. We didn't take anything but left things as they were.

Wusm i Dur, the forgotten valley :

The wonderfull valley of Wusm I Dur

Erik Shipton, in his book "Blank on the map", didn't say that there was anything of special interest in the Wusm l Dur valley. Maybe bad weather did not allow him to see the amphitheater of mountains that we had before our eyes. I myself went around the Mont Blanc without even seeing one top of those mountains because of fog. So we go up through this valley until we get to a junction, one valley to the South which we hardly explore (the view allows us to find a beautiful setting of stones) the other one to the East which we go up, takes us through an awful river bed towards the Wusm pass, described by Erik Shipton as extremely dangerous (ice falls and crevasses). Our excitement is at its uppermost when we go up a ramp of moraine towards herbal slopes, set up balconies, we are about 4500 m and surely, the only people to admire this magnificent panorama. The weather couldn't be better, blue sheeps can be found on a flower carpet accumulated snow falls down in avalanches from high granit walls on the west. Just opposite from me, a very hold mountain, even though I search on my map, I can find no references of it (later I'll check other Suisse, Nelles Map or American maps). The stone here is orangery red like on the Spantik or the Baintha Brakk. Snow falls in a suspended curve from which emerges a remarkably glacier tongue. Further up, only the ice flutes hold onto the tops of the unravelled mountains. Quadrat my guide and I estimate the mountain top to be approx 6000 m but on our incomplete map, only one point marks 5870 m and is further to the north. Everything is beautiful here and I use my camera. We continue to go up the valley. In the East, the Wesm glacier shows us that an ice fall took place on the front of the glacier, it's very obvious and falls apart in some places. This allows us to assume that it's in great expansion. Further to the east of the Chinese border, a superbe glacier ramp with summits of 6400 m altitude can be seen on my map, they represent lovely slopes to climb towards the Skami glacier.

Welcome to the third Pole :

Descente sur le glacier de Sim Gang

We walked in the snow, at 4500 m altitude for five days, skis would have been welcome. The high part of the Bradlu glacier outspread is as beautiful as Snow lake, the passes seem easy enough between the Braldu glacier and those of Skamri (in China) and the Nobande Sobande situated just a little above the high ice cap. This was the last programmed itinery when suddenly one of the porters refused to go any further (it's true that he recently lost a brother in an avalanche in the Chapchingol pass). So instead, we go towards the Lukpe la at the foot of the huge Bobisgir ice cap '6416 m). We awkwadly walk through heavy new snow, without ever seeing the famous Kaim set up by Tilman, 68 years ago in Lukpe la. Exhausted, we set up our camp on the top, the night is freezing, probably -15 C. Our shoes and sleeping gear is frozen the next morning but what a sight - the Sim Gang glacier is at our feet, at the east is K2 and the Broad Peak is far or very close, the northern side of Baintha Brakk (7285m) and Sosbun Brakk (6413m) are capturing the first sunrays - welcome to the third Pole.

This is a message :

We found many cavities in the Ulschelga area. It would be necessary to spend at least 3 weeks over there to gather information from the inhabitants and explore the cavities. An experienced sportive team (climbs because the cavities are often on abrubt walls) historians and scientists would seem necessary for a possible exploraton mission. I invite all those who'd be interested by a scientific mission aiming to prospect the many caves of the Ulschelga valley (also see adjacent valleys) to contact

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Statistiques géographiques
Index géographique Statistiques géographiques, Rév A - 02/04/05


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