American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Afghanistan, Scottish Hindu Kush Expedition

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1966

Scottish Hindu Kush Expedition. After refusing us permission to climb in several regions, the Afghan government allowed us to climb in the central Hindu Kush on the watershed ridge between Nuristan and Badakh- shan. Several German expeditions have climbed in the area, but their approach has always been from the north. Little was known about the southern valleys, especially the Bashgal up which we intended to travel. We marched 70 miles up this valley with donkeys to Paniger at its head, where we set up Base Camp on August 4 after a six-day trip. The next week was spent reconnoitering and sorting out the complex system of valleys that surround the head of the Bashgal. We particularly explored the two valleys that descend to the east out of the semi-circular wall of peaks that form the divide between the Munjan and the Bashgal, namely the Shoshgal and the more southerly Suigal. Both the Shosh and the Sui split into three great glaciers at their heads, of which both the central and southernmost of the Shosh and the northern of the Sui drain the flanks of Koh-i-Khrebek (20,500 feet), the highest peak in the region. The Sui glaciers also drain the two other great 20,000-foot peaks south of Koh-i-Khrebek on the main chain of the Hindu Kush (not Koh-i- Marchech, which is west of the divide). These are P 20,300 feet, 3½ miles south of Koh-i-Khrebek, and P 20,400, another 3½ miles south. This latter peak throws off a huge ridge to the southeast, the southern boundary of the Sui basin, which links it to a very fine group of mountains dominated by a great square peak, P 19,800. We first climbed two peaks in the upper part of the ridge which divides the Shosh from the Sui; P 16,700 on August 16 by Philip Tranter, Gavin Johnstone and me and P 18,550 on August 21 by me alone. We made the second ascent of Koh-i-Khrebek by a new route. (First ascent on August 17, 1961 by the Germans from Bremen, J. Ruf, Fräulein G. Heyser, O. Landi, B. Lengte.) John Wedderburn and I climbed to the summit on August 23 and Johnstone and Tranter the next day, from camp at the top of the south gully of the peak. On August 25 Wedderburn and I climbed P 19,- 200, three miles northeast of Koh-i-Khrebek while the other two ascended difficult P 18,400, which rises between the central and southern glaciers that feed the Shoshgal. On August 30 Johnstone and Wedderburn climbed P 20,300 from Camp at the top of the east gully of the peak. The summit ridge north of the top proved very difficult. Meanwhile Tranter and I had some extremely steep (70°) ice climbing to place camp on the col between P 20,400 and the peaks east of it. The climb on August 31 was on frighteningly steep snow (at times over 70°) with a soft surface and ice base and then a traverse under a large and fragile cornice. The north summit (20,200 feet) was reached in good order, but the lateness of the hour and the filthy weather (not to mention the horrific appearance of the higher south summit) demanded that the idea of climbing to it should be abandoned. P 18,400 on the ridge east of our last climb was a snow plod to a fine view point by Tranter and me on September 3. On September 5 we all climbed P 19,800, a straightforward snow climb but steep and sometimes crevassed. This was a most dramatic peak and gave a superb view of the whole Hindu Kush range.

William Fraser, Corriemulzie Mountaineering Club

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