In August 2013 one of our Covent Garden team, Malgosia Skowronska, travelled to Ladakh in the Jammu and Kashmir state of India with an aim to climb two virgin peaks located in the southern part of Palzampiu Valley.
Malgosia is an experienced mountaineer having already scaled Yala Peak (5500m) Nepal and the virgin peak of Koh-e-Brobar/Mt.Equality (6008m), Pakistan. She then organized and led Afghanistan's Secret Peaks expedition with a successful climb of the virgin peak Koh-e Elgha Eli IV (5725m). She has also climbed numerous routes in Poland, Austria and Scotland.
In this journal, Malgosia talks about her most recent accomplisments.
"The original goal of the expedition was to reach the restricted are of the Siachen Glacier. Unfortunately, due to tensions on the border between India and China, all climbing parties were unable to access the area. As the aim of the expedition changed, two of my team members pulled out which left me setting off on my own.
"Upon arrival in Leh I used the assistance of the local operator, Rimo Expediton, to provide me with two new climbing partner Thinles and the cook Dawa.
"Ladakh is considered to be a crossroad of high Asia, a place where Islam and Buddhism meet. Therefore, after my arrival in Leh on the 26 of September I took a few days to discover the culture and the history of this beautiful place. A must-see is the 15th century Buddhist monastery in Thikse. Located at 3600m above sea level, the monastery offers stunning views of the valley. There was also time for contemplation and prayers for the successful expedition in the sanctum of the Maitreya Buddha.
Thikse is a religious crossroads, where Islam and Buddhism create a cultural haven 3600m above sea level. The beautiful monasteries stand high over the valleys.
"We started our approach on 30th August via Lasirmu La down to Translago Valley and after seven days of trekking we established the base camp at 5086m. We had to carry our kit from the previous camp as a huge moraine cut through the valley horizontally, was unpassable on horses. We noticed that the back wall of the valley is formed by a gentle ridge running between three peaks. We climbed nearby hills for a better assessment of the climbing routes and discovered that there were two small lakes at the foot of the glaciers leading to our peaks. As the weather got better we decided to start the ascent the next day.
"On the 6th September we set off at 3.40am and reached the glacier from the north. We progressed to the west on a gentle slope which did not present any technical difficulties. We reached the first summit, Likir Peak (34°22.717’ N; 077°17.268’ E), at 6.40am with GPS showing 5619m. We decided to name it after the nearby pass, Likir La, located to the southwest from the summit.
"The second summit was reached an hour later with theGPS indicating 5681m. Nia Peak (34°22.377’ N; 077°17.747’ E) was also named after a nearby pass, Nia La, that is located to the northeast. There was a fine view to the south east onto Stok Kangri and to the north northeast on Saser Muztagh. A cold but sunny day allowed us to assess the quality of the climbing routes leading to the peaks from the south. Free of snow and scree-like slopes made an ascent a bit tricky. We descended via the same route.
"Still having some time to spare we decided to try our strength on Kang Yatse West (6200m), which is a sub-summit of the main Kang Yatse (6400m). As we were already well acclimatized we were able to relocate to Markha Valley in a few days and reach the base camp at an altitude of 5050m on the 11th September. Wanting to make the most of the good weather we started our ascent the next day at 4am.
"A warm night resulted in very soft snow which slowed our progress, however, at 8.50 we were already admiring the panoramic views from the top with perfectly blue skies.
"After sixteen days in the mountains during which we reached three summits and crossed four passes over 5000m we were ready to go back to Leh to enjoy some beers and curry!"
The expedition was a part of Secret Peaks Expedition Series. An independent project that aims to explore some of the most remote mountain regions of the world. More info can be found at www.secretpeaks.com .