This medium-grade 800m ice couloir begins at the head of the Adver Valley to the right (West) of the North Face of Shimshal Whitehorn and finishes on the north ridge. To the best of my knowledge it has only been completed twice.
The first group to climb the couloir was a French expedition in 2005 who had aspirations to subsequently ascend the north ridge to Whitehorn’s summit. Upon completing the couloir, they named it the “Couloir of 1000 Gutters” (only in French) with reference to the rocks that regularly tumble down its many runnels creates by snow melt. The team made little progress and decided to descend the nearby Madhil Glacier to the Malangutti Glacier rather than risk the objective dangers of the couloir.
The second group to climb the couloir was Peter Thompson and Lee Harrison (me) in 2006. Rock fall high in the couloir had led to our partner Ben Cheek being hit in the thigh on a previous attempt resulting in an immediate descent. As with the French we were unable to complete the North Ridge due to bad weather.
The couloir is medium grade (50 degrees, Alpine D), becoming mildly steeper towards the top. In 2006 the bergshrund was huge however avalanche debris bridged the gap in a number of places. During the lower half of the couloir, stay to the left hand side as there are a couple of subsidiary gullies joining from the right that are dead ends.
The easiest way to climb the couloir is via the numerous ice runnels which descend it. Towards the top of the couloir, bear right to the shoulder. We tried to make a direct finish higher on the north ridge however steep, sugary ice forced us right.
The couloir has significant risk of rock fall. An early start shortly after midnight is essential as most rock fall seems to occur after dawn, however there are no guarantees. Aim to be at the top of the couloir by sunrise. Should you hear tumbling rocks approaching then quickly exit the runnels as this is wear most of them will be channelled.
The trek to base camp commences from the village of Shimshal. Details of how to reach Shimshal are on the Shimshal Whitehorn page. Details of how to reach the Karakoram are on the Karakoram page.
The approach to base camp in the Adver Valley is relentless with little easy ground. A number of porters know the route and there is no need to hire a guide for route finding. That said the route that our porters took us was considerably harder than a lower route that we later found that initially followed a water channel. It may be that the porters avoided the water channel route for fear of it becoming damaged. Whichever route you take you need to cross the glacier above its mouth from its true right (east) to its left (west) and then climb a treacherous loose scree slope to briefly easier ground. A small rock buttress then needs to be climbed before traversing more scree to a water source (in June) at around 4000m. This trickle of water is unlikely to be present except in the early season so bring plenty of water from Shimshal. The route continues climbing through a beautiful meadow above which there are amazing vistas of Shimshal Whitehorn and Chu Kerti Dast West. Even for those not climbing the mountain it would be worthwhile visiting this spot simply for the views. From the meadow, the way to base camp stays on the true left side of the glacier. The route descends to the glacier then climbs loose scree.
Since many people do not visit this base camp, the porter stage system is a little unclear. We paid four stages (Rs 300 per stage) to the base camp that the French used in 2005 however this was still a fair distance from the true ‘base’ forcing us to make a higher bivi the evening before the climb. Icefalls leading to the base of the mountain will be tricky for porters to climb unless you have suitably equipped them with crampons and axes.
From base camp, the couloir is reached by ascending the broken Adver Glacier towards the north face of Shimshal Whitehorn. Patience is required to find a route through the crevasses and crampons will need to be donned higher up. Avoid the edges of the glacier due to potential rock fall.