American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Himalaya, Pakistan, Saraghrar

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1959

Saraghrar. The Oxford Chitral Expedition was composed of P. S. Nelson, E. W. Norrish, F. S. Plumpton, W. G. Roberts, and N. A. J. Rogers. Liaison Officer, Major Mohammad Ibrahim Khan, joined the expedition at Dir. Cook, Ali Morad Khan, served also as sirdar. The four high altitude porters, three of whom had climbed with the Norwegians on Tirich Mir in 1951, were cheerful, strong, and reliable. Base camp was reached on August 8 after an eight-day march from the roadhead at Chitral: four days up the main valley of the Chitral river and up the Turikho to Drasan; from Drasan over the 13,000-foot Sarth An Pass to Zundrangam in the Tirich valley; from Zundrangam up the Rosh Gol valley, past Duru to Base Camp. The Rosh Gol area was almost unknown. Base Camp was at Totiraz Noku, a pleasant meadow at 13,800 feet, tucked in beside glacial moraine beneath the west wall of Saraghrar (24,110 feet). From our tents we looked around at a cirque of seven mountains of 20,000 feet or more, unknown and, with the exception of Saraghrar, unnamed. Acclimatisation and reconnaissance climbs were carried out on low peaks near the camp—to the head of the Kotgaz Glacier, to Tao Zom (18,400 feet), on the northwest and southwest ridges, and into the Northern Cwm of Saraghrar. After about ten days we decided that although there was no obviously easy route, the Northern Cwm offered the best hope. We hoped to make a way up a steep snowcouloir at the head of the glacier (19,000 feet) to the summit ridge (22,500 feet) and thence about three quarters of a mile along the easily inclined ridge to the summit. Upper Camp I was pitched at 17,500 feet on August 12, an intermediate Lower Camp I at 16,000 feet on August 18, and Camp II at 18,500 feet on August 19. On August 24 we prepared an eight-day assault plan by which two parties, at an interval of two days, should each climb to the summit, after establishing two, and possibly three more camps. On the fourth day of the plan, on August 27, Nelson and Plumton were returning from an unsuccessful attempt to reach the summit ridge from Camp III, having reached about 21,700 feet. While retracing their footsteps to Camp III and recrossing the steep snow couloir, Nelson dropped his axe and overbalanced as he tried to regain it. Without his axe he fell out of control for about 1000 feet and was killed instantly. In light of this accident it was decided unanimously to give up the attempt on the mountain. We conclude that Saraghrar, as also any of its many surrounding peaks, should give a climb worthy of any party. We consider that but for misfortune we had a fair chance of success by our chosen route. Possible routes on any of these peaks are few and far between.

E. W. Norrish, Oxford Mountaineering Club

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