American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Pakistan or Afghan Frontier, Hindu Kush, Attempt on Lunkho

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1969

Attempt on Lunkho. P. V. Brian, D. B. Martin, R. A. P. Mellor, R. A. North and I as leader climbed in the Ab-i-Ishmurkh valley in the eastern Hindu Kush (36° 45' to 37° N, 71° 25' to 71° 35' E). We arrived in Kabul on July 12 hoping to visit the central Hindu Kush. To our delight, after a week of negotiation, the Afghan government allowed us to enter this legendary but politically restricted area of the eastern Hindu Kush. We were allowed to try Lunkho, the highest unclimbed peak in the range. However a Yugoslav and an Austrian party were to be in the adjacent valley. After a difficult three-day drive we arrived at the foot of our valley, where we employed 20 porters for two days to raise our equipment to the snout of the glacier, the Yakchal-i-Ishmurkh. We retained two men to help us establish Advance Base in early August at 14,850 feet on the eastern flank of the glacier near the Czech site of 1965 (A.A.J., 1966, 15:1, pp. 206-7.) The head of the valley was closed by the great wall of the main chain, behind which lay Pakistan. It stretched in our view between P 6845 meters or Little Lunkho and Lunkho (22,645 feet), our peak. From Advance Base we crossed to the south and then, turning west, climbed an icefall to a high glacier tucked between the frontier ridge and the shapely north ridge of the mountain. This ridge divided our valley from the neighbouring Ab-i-Khandut, where the Austrians and Yugoslavs had installed themselves. Camp I was established on this glacier at 15,700 feet. The north ridge was gained by a dangerous couloir above the camp. We followed the rocky crest to its lowest point, a small col at 17,550 feet. Above this lay several rounded crests before the ridge broadened to abut against the crest of the frontier ridge slightly west of the summit. Because of bad weather, it took five attempts at this route before our high point was gained. The retreat from the third try was made into the Ab-i-Khandut, where we met our Yugoslav friends, who informed us that the Austrians some days before had attained the summit. Yet, the line we were following was beautiful, and to climb it would be sufficient reward. Before the fourth retreat we had established a snow cave above all the major technical difficulties, at 19,500 feet. September 2 saw North and me again in the cave. We left it at 2:45 on the 3rd. This was to be our final bid. We immediately encountered very bad snow conditions, which made progress slow, tedious and exhausting. However, some 12 hours later, we stepped onto the sharp crest of the frontier ridge and stood with one foot in Afghanistan and one in Pakistan. The route, at least, had been completed. By this time North’s numbed feet were giving cause for concern; we wished to return as soon as possible. Therefore we selected a high point on the ridge 100 to 200 feet lower and perhaps a quarter mile from the true summit climbed by the Austrians. The poor snow conditions did not hinder the descent and we were back at the cave in 1½ hours. We arrived at Base two days later after a painful descent for North, who had seriously been frostbitten in the left foot. He has since lost the toes of this foot. Attempts were made on Koh-i-Mina (c. 21,000 feet) and Koh-i-Qala Panja (20,760 feet). Mellor and Tancred climbed Andaval or P 5712 (18,740 feet), which is the middle of the three peaks that lie between Kohe-James and the north and Kohe-Tirma.

Ian G. Rowe, Corriemulzie Mountaineering Club (Scotland)

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