by Tahir Bhat
SRINAGAR: A group of nine mountaineers – all members of JKMAC, successfully summitted the Tatakooti peak in the vast Pir Panchal range. Perched at an altitude of 4750 meters above sea level, this was the third successful scaling ever attempted in recorded history.
The team led by Ghulam Mohammad Wani and Arashid Majid covered an ascending mountain distance of 37.57 km. The other members of the team included Taous Baba, Haziq Beigh, Zeeshan Mushtaq, Mudasir Bashir Shah, Khursheed Beigh, Ahsan Mohsin and Tanveer Dar. The history was created on September 24, 2022.
For Wani, the team leader, who is a professional mountaineer and Skier from Tangmarg, it is the second turn to reach the peak. Earlier, he was part of the Jawahar Institute of Mountaineering and Winter Sports (JIM&WS) which had successfully made the second attempt at the peak. It was after 120 years when a team from JIM&WS made the second successful ascent of the peak via its North East side in 2018.
After the Kolohoi expedition of 2018, a senior executive of the JKMAC said they decided to undertake major mountaineering expeditions for the trained members of the club alongside Sunday trek for adventure enthusiasts. The 9-mmeber team was flagged off for the expedition by club president Mouzam Bakshi in the presence of Mahmood Ahmad Shah from TRC, Srinagar.
“At Doodhpathri, the team loaded all the necessary equipment, ration and other essential stuff on the horses and began hiking towards the base camp at Domail in Ashtar Valley – a 15 km hike traversing through the forests and endless meadows of Pir Panjal,” the executive said. “By 3 pm, the team reached the base camp and pitched their tents. Following an early dinner, members decided to sleep early and go for the summit push in the early hours next morning.”
On September 24, at around 3:30 am, the team left the base camp for the summit push. The first plan of action was to reach the Eastern shoulder of the peak, a 500 m elevation gain from the base camp through rough terrain.
“As per our research, the gully up to the shoulder should have been covered with snow. However, the team was encountered with a snowless gully making it more challenging to ascend,” the JKMAC executive said. “This secree (small loose rocks) accompanied by incessant light rockfalls added to the challenges of the climb.”
Finally reaching the shoulder, the team decided to climb up the Eastern Ridge that could be seen connecting to a distant end. As members followed this route, rock conditions became more stable and one could identify the ridge leading up to the summit. The team finally reached the Tatakotti summit at 10 am.
The team located Magroorsar lake in the South Eastern direction from the Summit. After a brief halt at the summit, members started descending at 10:30 am. Owing to the unstable rock conditions, members had to come down slowly to avoid triggering any major rockfall. The team finally reached the base camp at 3 pm, making this expedition the third successful attempt and the first civilian attempt of the Tatakooti peak.
However, what was disturbing was that the region has changed tremendously and for the worse from the time of Dr Neve’s exploration in the early 1900. Drastically receding snow cover makes the region increasingly more dangerous and uncertain, the team, members reported.
Tatakooti peak lies on the South Western side of Kashmir and is the highest peak of Pir Panjal Range, bounding the valley from South West. Dr Ernest Neve, a renowned mountaineer and medical missionary officer, in his book Beyond the Pir Panjal describes the peak as “the most conspicuous and imposing of all the peaks of Pir Panjal range is undoubtedly Tatakooti peak, the pyramidal shape of which with a central notch and very steep and jagged western and northern sides, makes it look as if it might be exceedingly difficult to ascend.”
Dr Neve attempted to scale the peak in 1900, reaching about three-quarters of the way up the final peak. The next year in Aug 1901, Neve, with his partner CE Barton made the first successful ascent of the peak via its South Eastern side.
In 2018 JKMAC club members, under the leadership of late Adil Shah, were able to summit its southern peak while doing a recce of the route leading to the main peak.