American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Pakistan, Hindu Raj, Buni Zom Main, Attempt; Buni Zom Suoth; 6MT, First Ascent; 6MT West, Attempt; Buli Zom, New Route on North Face and Death

  • Climbs And Expeditions
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  • Publication Year: 2008

Buni Zom Main, attempt; Buni Zom South; 6MT, first ascent; 6MT West, attempt; Buli Zom, new route on north face and death. I had previously been to the Buni Zom range, northeast of Chitral in the western Hindu Raj, in 2002 and 2004. Our aim was Buni Zom Main (6,551m), but lack of information about the terrain and the route prevented us from reaching the peak’s slopes. With the support of the Greek Climbing Federation, I organized an 11-member expedition to return in 2007; an independent climber, Nikiforos Stiakakis, also joined the expedition.

We set our base camp in the Kulakmali area (3,970m), a seven-hour trek west of Rahman village, in mid-July. [A map of this area may be found in AAJ 2005, p. 343—Ed.] Above base camp we climbed 100m of steep rock (V-) to gain access to the Khora Borht Glacier, west of the Buni Zom peaks; we put fixed ropes here to help us carry loads to higher camps.

We split into two teams of six, initially attempting the same objectives but one day apart. We set our first camp on the Khora Bohrt Glacier at 4,780m and a second camp at 5,430m, between Buni Zom’s main and south peaks. On July 22 the first group returned to base camp and rested for two days.

On July 25 we left base camp and reached Camp 2 early in the afternoon. Our plan was to climb the south face, likely by the same route that Dick Isherwood and Joe Reinhard followed in 1979 to make the third ascent of the peak. [Buni Zom was first climbed in 1957 and repeated in 1975 by a Japanese team that climbed the south face directly—Ed.] We started at 1:30 a.m., reached the col between the main and south peaks, and ascended the south face on its right side. At 5,800m we traversed left to a big couloir heading up to the northwest ridge. The avalanche danger increased above 6,000m, and at 9 a.m. we reached the northwest ridge (6,370m), where a giant cornice and unstable snow convinced us to retreat.

On the same day we met the second team, which, hearing our report, decided to attempt Buni Zom South (6,220m). They approached the peak from the northwest until they reached the west ridge at ca 6,050m. Only two members continued due to extreme cold. George Voutiropoulos and Akis Karapetakos summited Buni Zom South at 7 a.m. and enjoyed a magnificent view. The same day all of us returned to base camp.

We now split into smaller groups. George Voutiropoulos and I would attempt unclimbed 6MT (6,115m), while Manolis Mesarchakis, Vaggelis Zekis, and Nikiforos Stiakakis would go for a smaller, pyramid-shaped peak on the ridge west of 6MT, which we called 6MT West (ca 5,900m). Dimitris Daskalakis and Vasilis Naxakis would attempt unclimbed Buli Zom (5,909m).

Early in the morning on July 30 we left for 6MT, climbing past Camp 1 on the Khora Bohrt Glacier to 4,900m, where we headed east to a smaller glacier between Buni Zom South and 6MT. Around 3 p.m. we reached 5,125m and decided to bivouac. On July 31 Mesarchakis, Stiakakis, and Zekis started their ascent to 6MT West by climbing snow and ice up to 65° toward the west ridge. They reached the ridge at about 5,600m, but rotten rock did not allow belays and they retreated.

On the same day Voutiropoulos and I continued up the glacier to 5,250m and then climbed an icy couloir on the north-northwest face of 6MT, moving together for speed; this couloir began at 45° and gradually increased to about 70°. We reached the north ridge and continued to the unclimbed summit, reaching it at 8 a.m. A large cornice protruded from the summit to the east, so we stopped 3m lower. We descended the steep face by many rappels with our 60m rope. The route was 900m, TD 70°.

On July 29 Naxakis and Daskalakis left base camp for Buli Zom, a peak on the south side of Phargam Gol. Buli Zom has a steep north face, and there is no record of previous ascents. On the first day the two climbers reached the face and bivouacked next to a serac at 5,000m. In the morning they started up the north face via a couloir and then exited to the west to make a long traverse across a 60° slope until they reached a water-ice passage through steep rock. At 5,700m they encountered dangerous fresh snow, so they traversed right again over mixed ground, and then climbed another steep ice pitch to reach the summit ridge at 6 p.m. Although they were very near the summit, they decided to descend while it was still light.

At about 9 p.m., near the middle of their descent, and having already rappelled 10 times, Naxakis didn’t anchor himself sufficiently and slipped down the steep, icy slope to his death. Daskalakis continued rappelling to reach a system of crevasses and seracs where the body of our friend must have been lying. Unable to find him, Daskalakis returned to base camp early the next morning. During the next two days everyone in our expedition searched for Vasilis, with the precious help of two climbers from Denmark, Morten Johansen and Carsten Jensen, who had hoped to climb Buni Zom Mains east face. However, his body could not be found. The new route on the north face of Buli Zom is named for our friend: Vasilis (800m, ED 90°). In his memory we are collecting money to finish the school in Phargam village and support it with books, notepads, and salaries for the teachers.

Nikolas Kroupis, Hellenic Federation of Mountaineering and Climbing

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