Another attempt to scale the unclimbed Gulmit Tower

Author: Slawomir Kawecki, Poland

Rising west from Gulmit village on the Karakoram Highway is the Bulkish Yaz Glacier, dominated at its head by an outstanding peak named Gulmit Tower, one of several summits towards the end of the long ridge running east from Ultar. The village is the administrative center of Gojal region and the former residence of the Mir of Hunza.

According to information collected by polish cartographer Jorzy Wala, Gulmit Tower was first attempted in September 1988 Frenchman. Gerard Decorps and Emmanuel Schmutz approached from the Bulkish Yaz Glacier and climbed the couloirs left of the peak to reach its south col at 5,500m. Bad weather prevented further progress. A second attempted was made in July 1994. Julian Freeman-Attwood and Ed Webster, approached up the Sikardu Glacier to the southeast, climbed south-face couloirs to the west col (5,500m). The rock on the 300m headwall to the west ridge above proved to be very loose, and the pair retreated.

In September 2006 two poles, Tadeusz Mazeno dzigielewski and Jakub Homowski, made the third attempted, following the route tried by the french. They climbed a little way up the southeast ridge above the south  col to the main headwall at 5,500m but then retreated Tadeusz in July 2007 with Rafel Zarebski and two colleagues, but continuous bad weather and high avalanche risk  prevented of heavy them climbed the couloir.

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In 2008 Klaudiusz Duda and I made the fifth attempted. On June 4 we left Gulmit and the the following day established base camp at 4,300m. Over the next few days we  acclimatized on a nearby ridge, then rested in base camp. We anxiously watched avalanches of heavy wet snow come down the left couloirs, the only used to reach the south col.

The couloirs proving too dangerous, we tried a different route. On the 12th we started climbing farther left, passing below a big serac, and heading right up a snow/ice field to a rib, which was crowned by an impressive cornice. A slope of ice and rock took us to the south col, where we bivouacked. Next day we climbed the ridge to the headwall at 5,650m but, unable to find a continuation, returned to the col and rappelled alongside the couloirs. Halfway down we got too close to the couloirs, and a sizeable avalanche passed right over us. We escaped with just a few bruises and trousers. By the 14th we were back at base camp and reached Gulmit next day.

On January 4, 2010, the enormous landslide above Attabad dammed the Hunza River, forming a lake that became several Kilometers long and 100m deep. Gulmit is 40 percent flooded, and the lake has isolated 25,000 people in Gojal (Upper Hunza) from the rest of the country. Food has to be delivered by boats, which are also used to transport people across the landslide area.

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