The Central Hindu Kush was completely virgin until 1960 when some Germans approached the range from the north and climbed a few of the principal peaks. Since then other expeditions have climbed in the area but their approach has always been from the north. Our plan was to drive to Afghanistan and, following the Bashgal Valley from the south, make the second ascent of the highest summit, Koh-i-Chrebek (6,150 metres), and first ascents of as many others as possible.1 When we reached Barikot and the mouth of the Bashgal we found that the road which was supposed to continue a further 43 miles to Bragamatal had been washed away by a severe flood. We were very fortunate, however, to be able to hire eight donkeys and four drovers for only £7 10s. 0d. to convey our luggage the 70 miles to the head of the Bashgal. The drovers were excellent men, and in six days had us established at our Base Camp, known as the Paniger, on August 4.

Here, instead of seeing a great chain of huge 6,000-metre mountains encircling us, we found ourselves in a maze of impressive but lesser peaks. One 6,000-er could be glimpsed from a vantage point, looming huge above the foothills, but there was no means of telling which peak it was. It was obvious that we would have to do some exploration before we could attempt to proceed, and in fact we spent a full week probing solo or in two-man parties up the headstreams. The first such expedition which expected to find Koh-i-Chrebek was up the Puosh Valley to the Dogu Da pass leading north into the Badakshan province. This probe drew blank—there are no really high mountains round the Puosh. Next we investigated the Peshash Valley which we explored in all its detail for it is the smallest and seemed the most likely to contain the highway to the big peaks. However, a recce up the Shosh Valley to 4,572 metres revealed that the Shosh drained the South Face of a huge mountain which was probably Koh-i- Chrebek and that the Shosh Glacier curled round and separated the Peshash from the big peaks. A whole profusion of monster peaks none of which we could identify were found round the head of the Sui Valley during a recce up the Sui to 5,029 metres. We were still very uncertain about the topography, principally because both the Shosh and the Sui twist continuously and confusingly to the north. However, we decided to march up the Shosh and Camp I was established on August 13, five miles and 914 metres up the Shosh Valley just below the glaciers. From here Flatface (4,980 metres) was climbed on August 16 by Fraser, Johnstone and Tranter. Three days were then required to carry our gear 914 metres up the moraine and lower Shosh Glacier to Camp II. The next day, August 21, Fraser made a solo ascent of Fuar Tholl (5,550 metres) by the north-west ridge while Tranter and Johnstone attempted the adjacent Conival (5,520 metres) by the east ridge and were halted at the foot of the summit tower by darkness. From Camp II loads were carried up the Chrebek Glacier to the foot of the South Gully of Chrebek. One tent was left there (Camp K.I) while the other was carried one-third of the way up the gully (average angle 40°) and pitched on a ledge hacked out of the snow and ice (Camp K.II). Two climbers passed the night in each tent and the following day, August 23, all four co-operated in carrying the Camp K.II tent up to the top of the gully and pitching it on a small snow-field below the summit cone (Camp K.III). Johnstone and Tranter established themselves in Camp K.III and went to bed. Fraser and Wedderburn were supposed to return now to Camp K.I. The plan was that Johnstone and Tranter would climb Koh-i-Chrebek the next day and then go back to Camp K.I while Fraser and Wedderburn came back up to Camp K.III. The latter would then climb to the summit the day after that. However, Fraser and Wedderburn felt daunted by the prospect of all that yo-yoing and, although it was already afternoon and there were storm clouds approaching, they decided to 4 have a look' at the route ahead. Three hours' hard going through heavily crevassed rotten snow brought them to the summit just as the first blizzard of the trip struck. The descent to Camp K.III was an epic struggle through a total white-out with no help from the upward tracks which had been completely obliterated. After a frightening night in the storm-tossed Camp K.III Johnstone and Tranter repeated the ascent the following day in perfect conditions. After this Point Five (5,760 metres) was climbed from Camp K.I on August 25 by the south-west ridge by Fraser and Wedderburn while Conival simultaneously yielded to Tranter and Johnstone by the west ridge.


  1. Editor's Note. The Wakhan corridor has becomc popular. The first ascent of Koh-i-Chrebek was by Ruf's expedition in 1961. See H.C. Newsletters, 4-23, and this Journal Vol. XXV.


The expedition crossed over to the Sui Basin and established Camp III at the head of the north Sui Glacier on August 28. We had now established that 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 northernmost of the Sui drained the flanks of Koh-i-Chrebek. The Germans had indicated four 6,000- metre peaks on the main watershed ridge, three of which they had climbed from the north, Koh-i-Chrebek, Koh-i-Marchech and Shakh-i-Kabud. Between Koh-i-Chrebek and Koh-i-Marchech was another which was neither named nor climbed. The Sui glaciers also drained two other great 6,000-metre peaks to the south of Koh-i-Chrebek, on the main chain of the Hindu Kush, and these we assumed to be the German unnamed peak and Koh- i-Marchech. It was also apparent that the third peak threw off a huge ridge to the south-east, the Southern boundary of the Sui Basin, which linked it to a very fine group of mountains dominated by a great square peak which must be 6,000 metres high. We named this group the Rum mountains, after the hills of Rum in the Hebrides, and its dominating peak Askival. The unnamed peak on the main chain we called Sheasgaich.

At Camp III we split into two parties, one to climb Sheasgaich and one to climb Moruisg. Johnstone and Wedderburn set up a camp high on one of Sheasgaich's lesser ridges and climbed to the summit (6,090 metres) on the following day. Meanwhile Fraser and Tranter receded forward and found a site for Camp IV on the Col between Moruisg and the Rum mountains above the South Sui Glacier. This involved steep ice-climbing which included a long section of pack-hauling by rope from niches cut out of the 70° face. The original idea was to set up another camp halfway up the east face of Moruisg but this had to be abandoned because the climbing was too difficult and steep for pack carrying. Instead the whole climb had to be done in one day from Camp IV. The first thousand feet were the hardest. The safer route would have been on the left but would have involved too many hours of steep ice-step cutting. Instead the climbers had to ascend frighteningly steep snow (at times over 70°) with a soft surface and ice base and then to traverse under a large and fragile cornice. The upper part of the route was more straightforward but the snow was unstable. An avalanche swept this part of the face a few days later. The north summit (6,060 metres) was reached in good order but the lateness of the hour and the filthy weather (not to mention the horrific appearance of the south summit) demanded that the idea of climbing the south (higher) summit should be abandoned. We remained in Camp IV and spent a day there. Fraser and Tranter climbed Ainshval (5,550 metres) on September 3. It was 457 metres of snow plot to a fine viewpoint. Time was 50 minutes (good old Naismith). The others went forward to discover a route up Askival (6,000 metres) and a site for Camp V. We all climbed it together on September 5. A straightforward snow climb, but steep and sometimes crevassed. It was a most dramatic peak and gave a superb view of the whole Hindu Kush range. We sat perched on its summit for a long time under the perfect blue sky, gazing back at our mountains and the scenes of our adventures.

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