Project Aim:

To help vulnerable, mountain communities protect themselves from potentially catastrophic glacial floods.

Project Location:

The Shimshal Valley in the Karakoram mountain range, northern Pakistan.

Project Timeline:

Preparations: Ongoing
Expedition: July 2018


Welcome to the Karakoram Anomaly Project

The Karakoram mountain range spans the borders of Pakistan, India, China, Afghanistan and Tajikistan. The range is home to four of the Earth’s 14 mountains over 8,000 metres in height including K2, the second highest peak in the world. The Karakoram is the most heavily glaciated area outside of the polar regions and has the highest concentration of so-called ‘surging’ glaciers anywhere on the planet. These glaciers are characterised by short periods of rapid advance and such surges can pose a serious threat to downstream communities.

When these glacial surges occur, they can block river valleys, effectively forming an ice dam. When this dam melts and fails, huge amounts of water are suddenly released down the valley, often with catastrophic results.

Some Karakoram valleys, particularly the upper Shimshal and Shaksgam, have faced catastrophic outburst floods from glacial ice dams in the past. Since surging tongues are often located in remote areas far away from settlements, installing adequate warning mechanisms is challenging.

In June 2018, the Karakoram Anomaly Project’s scientific and filming team will travel to the Shimshal Valley. They aim to better understand the processes that lead to these glacial surges, to equip the local communities with the technological and policy tools that they need to avoid future glacial catastrophes and to record their expedition to bring awareness to both this issue and the stunning region in which it plays out.



Why Now?

The 2015 Karakoram Anomaly Project (KAP) kick-started the research interest in the region. KAP was a multidisciplinary endeavour that combined scientific research, community development and mountaineering in the central Karakoram range of northern Pakistan. The project’s driving aim was to assess the likelihood of occurrence of glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs) and help to protect the people whose lives are under threat in the Shimshal Valley. Our research concluded that the two main surge-type glaciers in the valley – the Khurdopin and Yukshin – were moving at normal rates and generally retreating. There was no significant risk of GLOFs in the valley at that point in time.

In May 2017, however, anecdotal reports stated that the Khurdopin glacier had begun to surge. These reports were confirmed by our collaborators, Dr Immerzeel Walter and Jakob Steiner from Utrecht University’s Mountain Hydrology Group, who observed parts of the glacier moving hundreds of times faster than their normal rates.

Glacial surging is still poorly understood. There is a unique opportunity to advance this understanding by studying the recent surging and flooding activity in the region. Mapping and quantifying the hazard risk in the area, as well equipping the local policy makers with robust scientific data, could in turn save thousands of lives.


Meet the Team

Karakoram Anomaly Project

Sergiu Jiduc

Project Founder & Scientific Officer

Sergiu Jiduc is an environmental geoscientist and sustainability expert currently based in the UK. Jiduc has received several research and exploration grants including from National Geographic in 2012 for his assessment of landscape changes in the Peruvian Andes and from the Royal Geographical Society in 2015 for his risk assessment of GLOFs in the Karakoram Mountains.

He is also a skilled mountaineer, having completed numerous high-altitude and technical ascents in the Himalaya, Karakoram, Andes, Alps and Caucasus ranges. Jiduc is also an accomplished science communicator having worked for the Edinburgh International Science Festival and delivered several talks at events such as TEDx, Flood Expo, Royal Geographical Explore Seminars and others.


Ana-Maria Pavalache

Social Educator

Ana is involved with various indigenous communities and conservation projects in diverse geographical settings with a great focus on the High Asia region.

After pursuing a successful career in the banking industry and graduating Master of Science in Entrepreneurship & Innovation at School of Management, Fribourg, she decided to switch courses and move into the humanitarian field working in community agencies, government departments and international organisations, addressing issues related to communities or population that have been historically oppressed and marginalised.


Jakob Steiner

Scientific Officer

Jakob is PhD candidate at Utrecht University. He did a Master in Environmental Engineering at ETH Zurich (Switzerland), working on ice cliffs on debris-covered glaciers in the Nepalese Himalayas. He also holds a degree in Classical Music from Innsbruck (Austria).

His PhD focuses on closing the water balance in mountainous catchments in High Mountain Asia, looking specifically at the contribution of glaciers to runoff. A lot of the time he therefore spends in the field in Nepal and Pakistan. He is also involved in the research of mass movements (avalanches, landslides) in the Himalaya and Greenland.


Federica Chiappe

Policy Advisor

Federica is a development economist with more than 10 years’ experience advising low and middle-income countries on climate change, sustainable economic development, and climate finance.

She has led and worked on more than 30 projects in over 20 countries around the globe, and has also lived in Guyana, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia, where she developed incentives to reduce deforestation in tropical rainforests. She is passionate about driving policy reform through engagement with diverse stakeholders, from very high levels of government, down to grass-root institutions and communities. Federica is at peace practicing yoga and immersed in nature.

Ross Fairgrieve

Ross Fairgrieve

Expedition Filmmaker

Ross is a professional filmmaker based in the UK. For the last decade Ross’ camera has taken him all over the world, from the Canadian Rockies to remote islands in the Andaman Sea. Ross has worked with a wide range of scientific and educational institutions including the University of Oxford, University College London, the National Oceanography Centre and the Institute for Cancer Research.

As well as his filmmaking expertise, Ross holds a master’s degree in Environmental Technology from Imperial College London. He loves to combine his filmmaking and scientific knowledge to share the wonders of the natural world with the widest possible audience.

Ronald Patrick Profile Image

Ronald Patrick

Expedition Photographer

Ronald Patrick is a photographer based in Berlin who examines the complexities of the human experience through documentary photography.

In his investigation, he chronicles aspects of various small or nomadic communities across the world in an effort to understand an alternative way of living, parallel to his own reality. As a result, Patrick often finds himself in difficult environments. His latest photo series on the Kharnak Nomads in the hills of Ladhak, India, represents one such instance where Ronald felt compelled to probe the challenges faced by a community that is intimately connected with nature.


Jeremy Janeczko

Expedition Photographer

A journalism graduate of Edinburgh Napier University, Jeremy worked as a communications expert and researcher in the medical field before becoming a photographer.

Now working freelance, Jeremy has spent the last three years traveling the world, building photo series either independently or through NGOs. Specialising in cultural and social photojournalism, he has covered a wide range of topics from leprosy affected communities, sex workers, tribes, homelessness, and human trafficking.


Doug Patterson

Expedition Artist

Doug has travelled extensively, painting and drawing in the tradition of a travelling artist, believing that the process of painting and drawing gives an intimate insight into a place and a unique access to people.

Doug’s numerous portfolios have formed a series of major collections in museums and libraries. His work is also represented in numerous private collections, including The Royal Geographical Society, The Mount Athos Archive and the St Catherines Foundation. His last major exhibition was at the Royal National Theatre, London, in 2011.


What are the goals of the project?

The summer 2018 expedition to the Shimshal Valley will be a multidisciplinary project comprised of three main work-streams:

Natural Science

The mechanisms behind glacial surges and glacial lake outburst floods are not well understood. Our Natural Science work-stream will attempt to improve the understanding of the behaviour and trigger mechanisms of the two phenomena. We also aim to quantify on-the-ground risk of glacial lake outburst floods and the surge characteristics of Khurdopin glacier.

Central to this is to carry out ground-truthing activities, confirming that measurements made via satellite images do indeed represent real-world observations. Our research findings will be published in an article in the Journal of Cryosphere.

Community Engagement and Protection

We want to help the community of the Shimshal to create a system of natural disaster management and emergency response that will work for them. As such, our second key aim is to explore indigenous knowledge systems and the cultural and social attitudes towards water resources and flood management. We aim to better understand how these factors affect decision-making and policy development in the region. Research findings will be published in an article in the Journal of World Development.

We will use this understanding to attempt to establish a Disaster Risk Reduction programme. The aim of this programme will be to protect lives and prevent loss of property with the help of methods derived from disaster preparedness and response, and institutional strengthening. Outputs will include policy recommendations to local decision makers distributed via our local partners (Aga Khan/Focus).

Documentary filming, photography and outreach

With our third work-stream we will communicate the results of the research in layman’s terms to the public to raise awareness about the subject matter and the stunning region in which the project will take place. Central to this communication will be a documentary film, to be presented at mountain and/or outdoor film festivals such as Banff, Kendal and the European Outdoor Festival, as well as photographic essays and articles for outdoor and/or science-orientated magazines such as Geographical, New Scientist and National Geographic.

We aim to document all expedition stages, the scientific findings and activities carried out in the field. Particular attention will be given to environmental aspects such as climate change, glacial hazard and sustainable development initiatives in the area. We will also document cultural and to some extent economic aspects, to provide an holistic picture of the processes and issues in the Central Karakoram area.


Sponsorship and Partnership Opportunities

We are extremely grateful to our current sponsors, advisors and partners for helping this vital expedition to achieve its goals:

National Geographic
Aga Khan Foundation
Utrecht University
Rab mountain equipment
Centre for Environmental Policy Imperial College London
Alpine Adventure Guides Pakistan
Transglobe Expedition Trust (TET)

We are actively looking to partner with brands and organisations that want to help protect some of the most remote and vulnerable communities on Earth.

This important, media-rich and adventurous expedition will provide an excellent opportunity for brands and organisations that share our values to reach an audience who are deeply engaged with outdoor adventure, science, and environmental and social protection.

To find out if your organisation could become a Karakoram Anomaly Project partner, please contact the team using the form at the bottom of this website.


Contact the Team

Whether you'd like to discuss partnership opportunities or you're just interested in the project, we'd love to hear from you. Get in touch with the team using the form below and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.