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Che Couloir is a New Ski Line in the Karakoram

The descent is part of Luke Smithwick's Himalaya 500 project which he's been working on for over a decade

Luke Smithwick is an alpinist, ski mountaineer and photographer in the Himalayas. He began his climbing and skiing career in the mountains of southwest Colorado climbing fourteeners and skiing the resorts of the Rockies.

His first trip to the Himalayas was in 2001 while on a break from completing his university degrees in archaeology and biology at the University of Colorado in Boulder. In 2010 after a climb on Denali he packed up his belongings in Alaska and moved to the Himalayas. He founded Himalaya Alpine Guides (himalaya-alpine.com) in 2012, a brand focused on the unexplored, unclimbed and unskied terrain in the Himalayas.

He started Himalaya 500, which is “a quest for 500 aesthetic ski lines that highlight the specific areas of the greater Himalayan range as a whole.” He recently skied a new line that he called the Che Couloir in the Karakoram. As Smithwick said, “Che is a Wakhi word that simply means ‘young ibex,’ I thought the name was fitting.”

How long have you been looking at the line? Many of these ski lines I am discovering as we go. You can only see so much on Google Earth, and you’ve got to be there in the right season when the snow may be the most stable and best. I found this ski line last week while climbing in an adjacent valley. We started at 2 a.m. the following morning.

What was the altitude? It isn’t very high, the ski line tops out at 4648 meters and runs on a Northeast exposure to 3,364 metres (1284 meter ski line). However there are many more nearby. The Hunza region is vast for ski alpinism & mountaineering.

Did you ski anything else in that area? Yes, several more ski lines in three other valleys. I’m on a brief break now and will start on new ski lines at 6000 meters for May in the Pakistan Karakoram. Then I’ll shift to Indian Himalaya for more 6000m ski lines in June, and then go to 8000m in the Pakistan Karakoram for July, then ski 7000m Spantik for August before shifting to 8000m and 7000m in Nepal Himalaya for Autumn.