American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Koh-e-Ak Su Range, Various Ascents

Asia, Afgahnistan, Pamir

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Author: Bartek Tofel
  • Climb Year: 2010
  • Publication Year: 2011

In July and August our 14-member Polish expedition climbed eight new peaks from what we believe to be a previously unexplored valley in the Koh-e-Ak Su mountains of the Little Pamir, immediately east of the lower Wakhjir Valley. Half the expedition members travelled overland from Poland, a distance of ca 5,000km to the roadhead at Sarhad-e-Boroghil in the Wakhan Corridor. From here we trekked east for five days, and on July 21 established base camp at ca 4,400m at the foot of the glacier (later named the Polish Glacier) in the Uchjilga Valley, close to the entrance of which lies a Kyrghiz summer settlement of the same name.

On the 24th Jacek Kierzkowski and Tomek Klimczak climbed our first peak, Koh-e-Atram (5,321m). They ascended a steep snow slope on the west side of the north face to a small saddle on the ridge above, and then followed the crest over mixed terrain to the summit (AD, 700m). They named the route Simple Solution.

Next day Piotr Klosowicz and Tomek Rojek reached the summit of Bordze Polandi (Polish Tower, 5,566m). The pair climbed 800m up the east face by a system of couloirs. Despite three avalanches (two of snow and one rockfall) and an unplanned bivouac the previous night, they managed to return safely to base camp the same day. They named the route Polish Minger (AD+). On the 26th Michal Karbowski, Slawek Korytkowski and Rafal Sieradzki climbed Koh-e-Se Zeboi (peak of three beauties, 5,735m), which had been tried unsuccessfully on the 24th by Justyna Leszczuk, Maciek Ostrowski, and I. They climbed a snowy rib on the north face (Three Beauties, Russian 3B). On the same day Miroslaw Labuz attempted nearby Peak 5,613m but retreated 10 vertical meters below the top when confronted with approaching darkness and a seemingly endless summit ridge. On the 27th Jakub Gajda hiked up to the rocky summit of Darwaza-ye Oqabi (Eagle Gate, 5,142m, Russian 1B) at the entrance to the valley.

The weather now deteriorated markedly and thereafter most parties leaving base camp came back without success. The most interesting attempt was made by Ostrowski and Klimczak. On the morning of the 28th they climbed the 700m east face of Peak 5,625m but were stopped from continuing up the summit ridge by bad weather. Although the route terminated on the crest at 5,550m, the pair named it White Surf (AD)

On the 31st the weather improved enough for three teams make the best use of the remaining time: we were scheduled to leave on August 5. On August 2 Klosowicz and Rojek climbed three virgin peaks in a 15-hour round trip from camp. The first, named Koh-e-Wawel (5,211m, PD+) is the highest point of the so called Dragon Ridge. This continues to a higher snow-and-ice ridge with two summits, Koh-e-Ikiv East (5,551m, PD+) and Koh-e-Ikiv West (5,560m, PD+), which were both climbed.

On the same day Ostrowski and Klimczak made another attempt on Peak 5,625m. They again climbed the 700m east face, this time via a different line, but were stopped by loose rock covered with fresh snow on the ridge above. They named their route Ursa Major. It finished 25m below the summit and had difficulties of 750m, D AI3 M5. It was the hardest technical climbing on the trip.

Also on the same day, Gajda reached the summit of Miz-e-Sangin (Heavy Table, 5,030m, Russian 1B). This hiking peak lies at the entrance to the valley opposite Darwaza-ye Oqabi.

Meanwhile Elzbieta Kaminska, Korytkowski, Kierzkowski, and Sieradzki joined forces to attempt Peak 5,420m. After a rough night at the base, they climbed the northeast face to the crest of the ridge at 5,310m but deep, loose snow made it impossible for them to continue. Before returning to base camp, Kaminska and Sieradzki made an attempt on Peak 5,613m (almost climbed on the 26th by Labuz). They climbed the west face but retreated below the summit due to lack of time.

It was a difficult return to Sarhad due to high water levels and we had to take the longer and more strenuous “high route,” which crosses three passes between 4,200m and 4,900m. Once at Sarhad our troubles were far from over, as the heavy rain had severely damaged the road along the Corridor. While the rest left Afghanistan on the 16th, I remained and explored the Wakhjir Valley and Big Pamir Plateau.

Conditions in the Koh-e-Ak Su were poor: even the glacier was hard to cross due soft surface snow one meter deep. Alpine ice was scare and the rock was very poor. However, at least 200 peaks in this group remain unclimbed and probably around 600 in the entire eastern Wakhan Corridor. The expedition would not have been possible without the financial support of the Polish Alpine Association (PZA). A detailed map of this area, on which peaks climbed and attempted are marked, can be seen on the AAJ website. On Google Earth 37°06'35.19" N, 74°10'41.97" E positions you on the summit of Koh-e-Atram.

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