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 Post subject: Nobande Sobande glacier, Karakoram range, Pakistan
PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2012 12:35 pm 
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Joined: Thu Jun 28, 2012 3:22 pm
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Hi guys,

First post for me on this forum and I would like to start it with a big thanks to all its contributors as I've found here some great amount of valuable and helpful information.

It's now my turn to share something with you as I've spent nearly one month in Pakistan being part of a ski expedition in the Karakoram range.
Things started more than 3 years ago with a phone call to a guy named Pierre Neyret. Pierre is a French mountain guide who has been going to the mountains of north Pakistan for 19 years. He has been organizing and leading ski expeditions every spring for 6-7 years in the Karakoram range. I was amazed by Pierre's book, articles, pictures from those expeditions (http://www.karakoram-ski-expedition.com/) but thought to myself "that's serious things...not for me yet"...few months after this call I was there, with skis, in the middle of enormous glaciers and incredible mountains, days away from the closest mountain village (my pictures from this trip can be seen on my website : http://travelping.free.fr/). This journey was just incredible and I knew I would come back.
3 years later, there I am again, but this time I have switched skis (I am a shitty skier) with a splitboard. Go there with a splitboard was not an easy decision : I am new in splitboarding and those expeditions consist mainly in skiing with sleds so there are only few opportunities to make ascents and have runs without the sleds....is using a splitboard really worth it ? After some training in the french Alps and some discussions with Pierre I decided to do it...and I'm glad I did it !

A few words about the Karakoram range: it is a spectacular mountain range, mainly in Pakistan, its east side is in India (Pakistan and India don't really agree with the borders) and some of its north side in China. Compared to Himalaya, the Karakoram range is quite small : only 500km long. It has 2 main characteristics : a lot of giant glaciers (up to 70 km long) and a lot of very high peaks (more than 100 summits over 7000m, including 4 8000s). The most famous part of Karakoram is the Baltoro area (where you can find K2, Broad Peak, Gasherbrums, Trango towers,....). Pierre's expeditions usually take place around Snow Lake (in the central part of the Karakoram). Snow Lake is a special place : at 5000m, it's made of 2 flat glaciers, Sim Gang and Lupke Lawo which joins and lead to the Biafo glacier (65 km long). It's surrounded by the Solu Towers on the west side and by the scary north face of the Ogre (aka Baintha Brakk, 7285m) on the east side. To get to Snow Lake you can climb directly from the Biafo glacier or from Hispar glacier/Hispar pass, Braldu glacier/Lupke La pass or Nobande Sobande/Skam La pass (Pierre has made all of them).

This time the plan was to get to Snow Lake from the Nobande Sobande glacier. The expected schedule was : 3 trekking days from Askole, with porters, to reach the snow on Nobande Sobande, 15 days on skis with sleds to climb the Nobande Sobande, go through the Skam La (5660m), cross Snow Lake, ski down the Biafo and meet the porters again at the end of the snow to get back to Askole in one long day. On the 15 ski days, we hoped to have up to 5 days to make some (easy) ascents/runs from camps on the glaciers. The team consisted of 8 French clients, a Swiss client, Pierre and Jahangeer (managing the logistics in Pakistan and assisting Pierre during the expedition). Overall the team was pretty experienced and 5 of us had already been skiing in the Karakoram with Pierre. I was the only one using a splitboard (2010/2011 164 Jones Solution, with Sparks R&D parts and La Sportiva Spantiks).

Part 1 : Paris-Askole :
We arrived at Islamabad in the morning, through a direct flight from Paris. The flight to Skardu was cancelled (as often) due to bad weather so we exchanged a 1 hour flight and an incredible view on the Nanga Parbat with a 2,5 days long road trip in the rain....: after going through Abbottabad, where Bin Laden was killed, and an area where a massive earthquake occurred few years ago we arrived at the beginning of the Karakoram Highway (KKH) at night. The south part of the KKH (the part in Kohistan) has some security issues and police are taking extra care of the foreigners : there are police check points everywhere where they must register, we even had a cop and his AK47 with us during some parts of the road. After a little accident with a truck and the sad vision of 6 burnt buses where 28 Chiites were killed one month before by Sunnites we finally arrived at Skardu, main city of Baltistan. We were the first expedition of the year to hit Skardu and people were visibly glad to see us (mountain tourism is still important for local economy). From Skardu you need 6 hours to reach Askole (3000m) with 4*4, the "road" is epic.

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Part 2 : Trek to Nobande Sobande :
We left Askole with Hassan, our sirdar (porter's chief), and something like 40 porters. The main part of the first day is common with the Baltoro trek, but at some point we turned left to get into the Panmah valley. At the end of the 2nd day, we had the end of the Panmah glacier (which is named Nobande Sobande in its higher part) just in front of us. As we went up, the landscapes became bigger. The next camp, on a terrace above the glacier, was beautiful. The camp was just 2 hours away from a snow tongue on the glacier, this is where the porters left us and went back to Askole. Those days, shared with the porters were great : those guys are really nice people, far away from the ideas many have on Pakistanis.

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Part 3 : Nobande Sobande - Up :
The first day on the skis is quite critical as the glacier is a mess with only little snow to ski on. We were happy to find a way easily skiable without having to carry the sleds (around 35-40kg at this point). As expected, the glacier conditions got better as we advance and the mountains/glaciers got bigger as well. The weather was quite variable with a mix of sun and clouds.

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We soon had our first ascent to reach 5200m from a camp at 4800m, and my first snowboard descent. Weather was not great but I reached the flat glacier with a big smile on my face.

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We reached the Hannispur base camp at 4900m from where we made a short scouting trip to a valley leading to the face of the Hannispur peak we hoped to ski.
A team member who was suffering from altitude sickness stayed at the camp with Jahangeer, but her condition became really serious in the late afternoon. The portable hyperbaric chamber did miracles and she got better in a really short time. We still tried to see how she could be evacuated, but it was difficult : she was not able to ski/walk down at that moment, Askole was at least 5 days away from here, the helicopter evacuation would take several days to be organized....if the chopper could take off (as the weather predictions for the next days were not good). Pierre decided to stay here a bit, see how she recovers.
The day after, she was feeling a lot better, and stayed at the camp while we tried to climb the Hanispur as the weather was not so bad in the morning. Things changed and we stopped in the middle of the ascent and went down under snow falls.

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The next camp was set at 5090m and was 6 kms away from the Skam La. We stopped there as it begun to snow again and the visibility became low. The snow almost did not stop to fall for more than 3 days, along with wind. During that time, we had an unexpected guest at the camp : a lost bird who spent almost 2 days with us: it slept in one of the tents and spent hours on the head of Jahangeer .
With all the snow and wind we had, Pierre told us that crossing the Skam La became too dangerous : the west side of the pass is 45° steep, the avalanche hazard is now too high. It was disappointing as we all wanted to get to Snow Lake but the decision was well understood (and expected).
After almost 4 days of bad weather the sun came back and we left "snow camp" to climb the Skam La (without the sleds). The sun and the incredible sight boosted our spirit. The final part of the ascent was a bit tricky and exhausting : heavy powder, some exposed slopes to avoid, crevasses, low visibility (weather changed from great to cloudy). In the upper part, I was very careful while going down with my snowboard and went back to snow camp exhausted but happy.

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Part 4 : Nobande Sobande -Down :
No crossing Skam La means going back to Askole using the same path we used on the way up. Pierre used his sat phone to set a new meeting with the porters at the end of the snow on the Nobande Sobande. We quickly reached Hanispur BC and thanks to a small weather improvement in the afternoon we left the camp to ski on the north side of the glacier. The little snowboard run was good.

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The day after we made the ascent of a pre-summit of the Hanispur, reaching 5770m. The weather was nice even if the biggest mountain around (Ogre, 7285m) was hidden by clouds (same for the Baltoro peaks). The views while going up the Hanispur were spectacular especially the mighty north face of the Latok I (7145m) dominating the Chotkoi glacier. The ascent was quite tough because of a respectable thickness of heavy powder. The run to go down was probably the most incredible I've had in my humble snowboarder life....unforgettable !

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After the best, the worst....the day after we let the sleds on the border of the glacier to go up to the crest line separating Nobande Sobande and Braldu glaciers. Pierre had heard about a possible pass there and tried to find it with google earth before leaving to Pakistan. He had a good idea about the probable position of the pass. We went up in a cloudy weather, the snow was hard and some slopes were a bit exposed with some crevasses around. This was the only occasion to use Mr Chomps crampons, and they were useful. We found the pass (at around 5300m), which would be possible to be crossed to reach the Braldu basin, but the weather got worst quickly. The descent was awful : the visibility was really poor (all white) and it was really difficult to discern something, I was disoriented and lost my balance many times, making a turn was quite a challenge. With all the crevasses around, I was really cautious and I felt happy to reach the bottom.

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The descent on the Nobande Sobande went well, we had packed snow and I used my split in ski mode without the skins (like each time I've skied down with the sled). It took us 2 days from Hanispur BC to reach the end of the snow. The last part was a bit tricky as the snow was slowly replaced by ice and rocks. A glacier river, which was not there when we climbed up, gave us some difficulties and we had to pull the sleds one by one on a snow bridge to cross it. After that, we continued by foot and we quickly found the porters waiting for us. It was clearly a special moment as we were isolated during 14 days and the greetings from the porters were touching. We needed 2 long days (26km for the last one) to reach Askole.

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We were back to "civilization", with liquid water, non lyophilized food, and soon, beds and showers... that's quite a change and a real pleasure. Back to Skardu we didn't even tried to catch the plane as we knew it wouldn't fly (guess what, bad weather !) and we jumped again on the road to reach Islamabad and then flew to Paris.

Even with all the bad weather we had and even if we only made one glacier out of three, it was still a great experience. Using a splitboard made it also a bit special for me. I think I will go there with my splitboard again, it's just too good.

Cheers,

Nicolas

PS1: thanks for reading
PS2: sorry for my limited english
PS3: if you have any question/remark/insult for me, don't hesitate
PS4: here is a direct link to the whole pictures gallery : http://www.flickr.com/photos/81463676@N ... 334011234/
PS5 : I've added a panorama with some names and the path we skied without the sleds :

Image


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 Post subject: Re: Nobande Sobande glacier, Karakoram range, Pakistan
PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2012 3:00 pm 
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Joined: Fri Nov 02, 2007 4:42 am
Posts: 312
Location: Girdwood, AK!!!
That's quite the first post, The Karakoram Range! Looks like a precursor to Jeremy Jones' "Higher", with one of his boards even. Nice, very nice, work! I do hope you keep posting TRs here, for we need more stoke from Europe and abroad. Thanks again, and welcome aboard!

PS I'm quite jealous of this trip

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 Post subject: Re: Nobande Sobande glacier, Karakoram range, Pakistan
PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2012 3:41 pm 
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Joined: Fri Feb 22, 2008 6:51 am
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Location: Surfing or Splitboarding Downunder
Travelping
Some insane pics :drool:

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 Post subject: Re: Nobande Sobande glacier, Karakoram range, Pakistan
PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2012 5:02 pm 
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Awesome TR! Tons of great pictures. Out of all of them, my favorite was this one
Killer modified/rebuilt 4X4's!
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 Post subject: Re: Nobande Sobande glacier, Karakoram range, Pakistan
PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2012 6:45 pm 
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Joined: Sun Jun 17, 2012 5:29 pm
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Location: Tacoma,WA
Looks like a great trip! Those are some amazing mountains. Thanks for sharing

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 Post subject: Re: Nobande Sobande glacier, Karakoram range, Pakistan
PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2012 10:12 pm 
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Joined: Wed Apr 20, 2011 6:15 pm
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Location: mountains of portland, oregon
:bow:

oh man i need to start playing the lottery or go to college or something. Trip of a lifetime!

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 Post subject: Re: Nobande Sobande glacier, Karakoram range, Pakistan
PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2012 12:01 am 
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Joined: Wed May 09, 2012 6:09 am
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Location: Torino, Western Alps
:bow: :bow:

AMAZING trip and photo... :headbang:
which camera did you use?

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 Post subject: Re: Nobande Sobande glacier, Karakoram range, Pakistan
PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2012 6:48 am 
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Location: Denver
Excellent trip and the photos are stunning! The Ogre is one scary SOB.

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 Post subject: Re: Nobande Sobande glacier, Karakoram range, Pakistan
PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2012 9:07 am 
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Joined: Thu Oct 29, 2009 3:22 pm
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Location: Durango, CO
That was awesome. Thanks for sharing.


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 Post subject: Re: Nobande Sobande glacier, Karakoram range, Pakistan
PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2012 11:15 am 
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Joined: Wed Mar 09, 2005 4:15 pm
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Location: san diego CA
Great first post. Thanks for taking us along on your adventure to somewhere I will never be able go( job, house, old ect). Looks exciting and beautiful place. As I have said many times it nice to learn of diffrent lands and people and cultures. Thanks

Keep em coming

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 Post subject: Re: Nobande Sobande glacier, Karakoram range, Pakistan
PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2012 12:15 pm 
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Joined: Thu Jun 28, 2012 3:22 pm
Posts: 6
Thanks a lot for all your comments ! I'm glad you liked it.

I've added to my original post an image with some names and what we skied without the sleds.

GiulianoPhoto wrote:

which camera did you use?

I had a Canon 60D with a Canon EFS 15/85 lens. I am happy with this combo even if it is quite heavy.

jibmaster wrote:
Killer modified/rebuilt 4X4's!

Those old Land Cruisers are awesome ! They are so classy !

D-GREEN wrote:
That's quite the first post, The Karakoram Range! Looks like a precursor to Jeremy Jones' "Higher", with one of his boards even. Nice, very nice, work! I do hope you keep posting TRs here, for we need more stoke from Europe and abroad. Thanks again, and welcome aboard!

PS I'm quite jealous of this trip

Thanks for your words and your welcome. I'll will definitly post a TR for my next trip. This trip was a kind of test for me and I now feel quite enthousiast to go on because it is the perfect mix between 3 of my passions : snowboard, trek/alpinism and travels. About Jeremy Jones, I sent an email about this trip to Jones Snowbard and Jeremy answered me with a kind email. I felt quite honored as I have huge respect for what he does.


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 Post subject: Re: Nobande Sobande glacier, Karakoram range, Pakistan
PostPosted: Fri Jul 06, 2012 8:06 am 
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Joined: Wed Nov 17, 2004 11:42 am
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Location: California
Thanks for posting!! Now that is adventure.


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 Post subject: Re: Nobande Sobande glacier, Karakoram range, Pakistan
PostPosted: Mon Jul 09, 2012 5:36 am 
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Location: Melbourne, Australia
:bow: yowser, insane in the membrane.

Incredible photos, I get all puffed and out of breath at 2,000m, I can hardly imagine what it's like at nearly 6,000m! Amazing!

:thumbsup: :thumbsup: :thumbsup:


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