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Asia, Afghanistan, Attempt on Bandako and Upper Munjan Valley

Attempt on Bandako and Upper Munjan Valley. Our group, Harold Mellor, Chris George, John Wilson, Brian Serff, Jim Murray and myself as leader, left Britain on July 10 to travel overland. In Kabul permission was granted for the expedition to visit the mountains of the Hindu Kush, in particular the Munjon valley and to approach by way of the difficult northern route through Faizabad and Jurm. The truck was left at the road- head village of Hazrat-i-Sayid on August 13 and we followed the Kokcha River, accompanied by pack-animals and porters. At the village of Iskaser, the Kokcha divides to form the Munjan and Anjuman rivers. We followed up the Munjan before turning up a tributary, the Sakhi, at the head of which stands Bandako, our main objective. After a trip of six days, Base Camp was established on August 21 at 14,000 feet. We could see the obvious line on the mountain, the west ridge, used by previous parties. I decided instead to explore the southern glacier and to attempt the somewhat formidable south ridge. After an acclimatization period on the glacier, we decided that this ridge was not practicable. However, we felt that a steep snow-filled couloir, just west of the south ridge and on the south face, might produce a feasible route. Camp I was situated on August 24 at 17,000 feet at the lower end of the glacier. After reconnaissance we decided to establish Camp II at 19,000 feet directly under the couloir. All our plans were shattered when on August 26 John Wilson fell into a crevasse near the campsite and was killed. The accident caused morale to drop very low indeed, particularly as Mellor had returned home to take the news of the accident back to Britain. However, four members decided to push on to achieve our objective. The next attempt terminated when the party in Camp II was confined for three days during a heavy blizzard. When the weather cleared, the camps were restocked and on September 3 a fresh assault was made on the couloir. The route was steep and we floundered waist-deep in soft snow. It seemed it would take another two or three days to reach the summit. I reluctantly decided to withdraw and try some smaller peaks farther up the valley. The height reached on Bandako was something over 21,000 feet. There was an interesting group of mountains between the Munjan and Anjuman rivers, which I knew to be virgin ground. We followed the Munjan south for three days and on September 14 reached Nau, the last habitation before the Nuristan border. The horsemen being afraid of the Nuristanis would not go further. We set up Base Camp at Nau at 10,000 feet. After several days’ reconnaissance, we decided to attempt a difficult rock peak on the east side of the valley. After three days of climbing and bivouacking George and Serff reached the top of an unnamed 16,000-foot peak but were unable to reach the summit of Larousk (18,000 feet) behind it. We then moved up a hitherto unvisited valley, the Wihge, on the east side of the Munjan. We set up an advanced base at 15,000 feet to attempt a large rock peak, Koh-i-Wihge, at the head of the valley. It proved extremely difficult. After one further camp and three ledge bivouacs, on September 25 Serff and Murray reached the summit and noted an aneroid height of 19,500 feet. They saw in the group only one mountain which was higher and believe this to be a new 6000-meter peak.

Alastair Allan, Royal Geographical Society