Himalayan Journal vol.27
The Himalayan Journal

Publication year:

Dr K. Biswas
    (J. O. M. ROBERTS)
  9. MOMHIL SAR (24,090 FEET)
  12. KINNAUR, 1966
    (B. P. BANERJI)
    (DR. H. SHIRAKI)



(Translated by Hugh Merrick)

[Reprint of a contribution to the o.a.j., Vol. 90, 1965]

During 1963 and 1964 members of reconnaissances in the Hindu Kush met at two sessions designed to promote closer personal contact, to provide an opportunity for exchanging experiences and to facilitate the production of a common plan. The Munich Conference was called by the Deutsche Alpenverein; that at Salzburg by the Osterreichischen. As a result the further exploration of the Hindu Kush peaks, among which reconnaissance work has been going on for some ten years, is being carried to its end on a more or less properly planned basis.

It is for geographers to issue statements about the Hindu Kush purely as a mountain range, which the latest statistics declare to be the fifth largest in the world. Nor is this the place to go too deeply into the meaning of the name. According to Fosco Maraini, the old name, Paropamisus, stems from the Awesta, which wears a Greek mantle, and might be rendered as ‘higher than the flight of the eagle'. But under modern subdivision and delineation practices, the actual range which inherits this name is no longer regarded as part of the Hindu Kush.

It is a commonplace that the Hindu Kush lay for a long time in the ‘shadow' of those great Asiatic ranges, the Himalaya and the Karakorum. Indeed it was only lately discovered from the mountaineering point of view. This article is intended to give only a broad outline of the exploration of the range ; its main objective is to record the more recent opening up of the northeastern or 'High' Hindu Kush, following the basic programme laid down by the Salzburg Conference.

In so doing it is proposed to note those factors which influenced the course of the history of its development, though in themselves they have nothing to do with climbing or the evolution of climbing techniques. I refer to such things as the continually changing trading conditions and the external and internal political ituation at given times in the area under review. Nepal, for instance, first opened its gates to mountaineers in 1949, whereas in neighbouring Garhwal (Kumaon), Trisul (7,120 m.) had already been climbed in 1907 by T. G. Longstaff, who died last year.

In order better to understand the dependence of the Hindu Kush in particular on such factors, you only have to follow in any available historical atlas how the Russian Empire, from the days of Peter the Great onwards, pushed forward stage by stage towards Central Asia ; while, on the other hand, the British imperial sphere, which had begun as a simple factory on the Bay of Bengal, reached out ever further north-westwards. Here were two mighty poles of power, charging themselves with great and dangerous energy, within that field of tension lay the ever-restless country of Afghanistan.

Since the Hindu Kush to a great extent forms the axis of that territory, and divides as it does at its culminating point, the narrow sliver of Afghanistan's Wakhan from Chitral (once part of British India but now Pakistani), it is not surprising that definite political factors had an exceptional influence on the exploration of the range.

The separate sectors of the Hindu Kush, so far as their exploration is concerned, are so basically different that it is proposed to take them separately, sector by sector. And for this purpose we intend to follow the subdivisions proposed by Dieter Hasse, because for the mountaineers they are the easiest to understand. There are only a few 5,000-metre peaks in the Western Hindu Kush. At the 3,550-metre Khawak Pass this range abuts on the Central Hindu Kush, with its innumerable 5,000-metre peaks and a magnificent elite of six-thousanders in the north and north-east. These again are separated by the Dorah Pass (4,550 m.) from the north-eastern or 'High' Hindu Kush, which forms a great frontier wall between Wakhan and Chitral rich in six-thousanders but thrusting up proudly into mighty peaks of over 7,000 metres. Finally, the area lying beyond, between the ' High' Hindu Kush, the Karumbar River and the Indus, is also reckoned as part of the great range.

The Western Hindu Kush

Here there is nothing to add to what Dr. C. Rathjens wrote in the 1955 O.A.V. Journal, namely, that foreigners on their travels or serving in Afghanistan climbed occasional peaks in the neighbourhood of Kabul or along the more important trade routes. Hardly any of them are documented. Certainly Sha Fuladi (5,143 m.) and" Amir Kalan (5,100 m.) in Koh-i-Baba, still awaiting systematic exploration, were climbed (Lit. 1, p. 121).

The Central Hindu Kush

We must again refer to Dr. Rathjens' book. In his final paragraphs appear the following sentences: ‘The mountaineering possibilities in the Afghan Hindu Kush are positively overwhelming. All that is now required is to take advantage of them. Working closely with the scientific explorers of this great range, every climbing venture will enjoy wonderful successes, and return home with unforgettable impressions and experiences from the completely untouched and unspoiled mountain world of Afghanistan.' His words were to become one of the catalysts for the wave of reconnaissance in the Central Hindu Kush, which started in 1959.

A sketch-map by Dr. Albert Herrlich (Lit. 2, p. 172) has made it clear that the area of the Central Hindu Kush is an isolated island lying between Afghanistan's main trade routes. He was the technical leader of the 1935 German Hindu Kush Expedition, whose scientific work was directed by Dr. Arnold Scheibe. They carried out a thorough scientific research programme in Nuristan, on the southern slope of the Central Hindu Kush. They visited practically every valley of Nuristan (the Ramgul, Kulam, Kantiwo and Parun Valleys) and crossed high passes between them, although they did not press on to the passes which connect Nuristan with Munjan in the northern sector of the main ridge of the Hindu Kush. From the Bashgal Valley they crossed the Semenek Pass (4,480 m.) into Chitral's Lutkho Valley. They also made a diversion to the Dorah Pass, pressed forward towards Tirich Mir and almost to the top of the Baroghil Pass (c. 3,800 m.).

The first successful mountaineering reconnaissance, apart from some negligible efforts on Mir Samir (Eric Newby and Hugh Carless almost climbed it in 1956: cf. 4 A short walk in the Hindu Kush', E. Newby 1956) and in the neighbourhood of the Anjuman Pass, was that of the 1959 Nurnberg Hindu Kush Reconnaissance led by Harold Biller, with his wife Bobby, Theo Stockinger and Hans Vogel as members (Lit. 3).

Biller confined his activities to the south side of the main range. On July 27, 1959, they all climbed the peak lying to the east of the Panjir Valley, Mir Samir or Morsamir (then thought to be 6,059 m., later estimates give only 5,809 m.). This reconnaissance, carried out by VW-bus overland from

Germany to Afghanistan, set other successive ventures in motion ; from 1959 to 1964 they were nearly all undertaken by sections of the Deutsche Alpenverein. What they all had in common were the idealism of their members, the desire to visit far-off virgin valleys and mountains, and the dearth of adequate funds. Biller's method of approach made it possible to fulfil their dreams. Far beyond the 4,225-metre Anjuman Pass, which leads over from the Panjir Valley into the region of Anjuman, lay territory completely new to climbers.

The Anjuman Valley to its west and the Munjan Valley to its east, uniting near Iskazer into the Kokcha (or Kokva) Valley which runs first northwards, then westwards, to the Oxus, split the northern roof-tree of the Central Hindu Kush. The secondary lateral valleys, with the single exception of the Sauroni, invariably lying to their right, provided the areas of research for these German reconnaissances, which it is proposed to cover briefly here, in geographical valley order, for ease of survey.

The area of the Anjuman River's sources: Here the 1962 Rosenheim Hindu Kush Reconnaissance did its work. The leader was Werner Kaesweber, accompanied by Annemaria Stadler and Benno Sinnesbichler (Lit. 9). Of the many peaks mirrored in the region's glacier-lakes they climbed more than a dozen, mostly five-thousanders.

The Pagas Valley: In 1960 the Berlin Party, on their way back from Kohi-Bandaka (see below), climbed seven five-thousanders (Lit. 4).

The Bologron Valley: The 1963 Stuttgart Reconnaissance operated in this rather larger lateral valley, which runs parallel to the Pagar. Rolf Reiser led it and the members were Wolfgang Lutz, in charge of actual climbing, Dieter Grundig and Alfred Kehrle (Lit. 11).

Among the 24 or so ‘five-thousanders' climbed by the Rosenheim Party, the most interesting was Kohe-e-Safed (since elevated to 6,001 m.). This summit is identical with Pt. 5,953 on the International World Map, which the party originally selected as their main objective, hoping to reach it from the upper Anjuman Valley. According to Hasse, the highest summit in the Anjuman area stands to its left, at the entrance to the Bologron Valley ; its height is now given as 6,026 metres and the peak remains unclimbed at the time of our present report.

The German explorers found that the tributary valleys to the right of the Munjan Valley, too, offered approaches to virgin peaks, but the shorter ones to the left offer very little promise. All the six-thousanders stand on the northern slope of the Hindu Kush. There are now known to be about 20 of them against an earlier estimate 10 (see Postscript).

Shortly after the junction of the Anjuman and Munjan Valleys the last side-valley opens up, the Sachi, which, with the Iblar Valley, splits a massif, whose monarch is the 6,843-metre Koh-i- Bandaka. This was climbed on Sept. 22, 1960, by the whole Berlin Party, consisting of Wolfgang v. Hansemann, Dieter Hasse, Siegbert Heine and Hannes Winkler (Lit. 4, 5).

The Bandakd area: In 1963 a Garmisch-Partenkirchen Reconnaissance carried out a complete and thorough survey of the Bandaka area. Its members were Forestry Expert Thomas Triibswetter, his wife Iris, Dr. Volker Gazert, Konrad Holch and Christian Speer (Lit. 10, 11). They climbed about a dozen five-thousanders and the following six-thousanders:

Koh-e-Kd Safed (6,192 m.): The whole party on July 11th.

Koh-e-Bandakd, South Summit (6,843 m.): Holch and Th. Trubswetter on July 17, 1963. This = Hahhe's Bandaka (6,660 m.) and is therefore the second ascent.

Koh-e-Bandakd, North Summit (c. 6,750 m.): The same pair on the same day.

Koh-e-Bandakd Sachi (6,414 m.): Iris Triibswetter, Gazert and Speer on the same day.

Trubswetter divides the mountain groups into Koh-e-Ghas and Koh-e-Ka to the west and north of the Iblar Valley ; the ridge with Koh-e-Iblar on it, between the Iblar and Sachi Valleys ; and finally the Koh-e-Bandaka to the east. Here, as in other places, no comment is offered about variations in spelling, for we lack authority in the matter.

Where the Munjan bends, the Borrisch (Parghish) Valley falls in from the direction of the Sanglich or Munjan Pass, which leads to Zebak. Its left-hand tributary valleys are the Chorwek, according to J. Rufworth's exploring, and the Rees. It was from the latter that the 1961 Bremen Reconnaissance Party (Eng. J. , Ruf (Leader), Dr. Elizabeth Huffmann, Gertrud Heyser, Otto Laudi and Berni Lentge) successfully attempted a fine six- thousander Koh-i-Chrebek (6,290 m.), Heyser, Laudi, Lentge and Ruf reaching its summit on Aug. 17, 1961.

The Traunstein Reconnaissance of the same year went up the Sharan Valley, which rises eastwards from the Munjan. It was led by Dietrich v. Dobeneck, and its members were Karl Brenner, Otto Huber, Fritz Wagnerberger and Karl Winkler (Lit. 7). After climbing some five-thousanders of the Dewana group in the lateral valley running up parallel with the Sharan (the Deh-Ambi Valley), Brenner, Wagnerberger, Huber and Winkler took the two six-thousanders at the head of the Sharan Valley, Koh-i-Marchech (c. 6,200 m.) and Shakh-i-Khabud (c. 6,190 m.)9 on Sept. 1 and 6, 1961. (The new Afghanistan map's quotation of 6,400 m. for the former is probably wrong.)

In 1962 a Bamberg Reconnaissance team penetrated still further into the upper Munjan Valley. It consisted of Sepp Ziegler (Leader), Dr. Rudolf First, Karl Cross, Walter Patzelt, Otto Reus and Hans Vogel (Lit. 8). They turned off into the Darra-i-Chawj (Chauir) and on July 26 climbed Koh-i-Mondi, given as 6,248 m. on the World Map but now quoted as 6,234 m. (Reus, Vogel and Ziegler), and Koh-i-Jumi (c. 6,949 m.) (Vogel and Ziegler). They then by-passed Darra-i-Parshui-later to be the scene of operations of a climbing-group from Goppingen in 1965-through the so-called western Parun Valley over the Weran Pass (c. 4,500 m.) and, after climbing a few peaks, through the Nuristan Parun Valley into the Pech Valley and finally down to Kabul. This was the first north-south crossing of the main ridge of the Central Hindu Kush by any climbing party, though scientists had crossed the Weran Pass earlier on. The passage of the Ramgul Pass (c. 4,700 m.) into the Ramgul Valley from the upper Munjan and Sauroni Valleys by the Garmisch- Partenkirchen Reconnaissance in 1963 was probably the first by any Europeans.

In 1964 the Kempt en-Munich Reconnaissance explored the headwaters area of the upper Munjan Valley. Benno Diepolder led the party, which consisted of Reiner Neuger, Richard Stangl and Hans-Peter Weinzierl (Lit. 13).

After climbing a few five-thousanders or near-five-thousanders they crossed the main ridge of the Hindu Kush by the Kantiwo (Arewdo?) Pass (c. 4,500 m.). They then climbed down from the north into Nuristan's valleys, which had first been explored in 1935 by German scientists.

Another route than the approach over the Anjuman Pass brought explorers, as in the case of the Traunstein Expedition, into the Central Hindu Kush ; this was the north-south route through the Kokcha Valley. The Khwaja Muhammed range, lying to the west of the Kokcha, Anjuman and Panjir Valleys, was opened up by a westerly approach. Its watershed swings away far to the east and south-east, while the western valleys bite deep into the heart of the range.

In 1963 the Munich Reconnaissance (of the Munich Academic Section of the Deutsche Alpenverein) drove its vehicles through the 60-mile-long Farkhar Valley. While its main objective was a scientific exploration of the Piw and Imun Valleys, the party, consisting of Dr. Axel v. Hillebrandt (Leader), Eng. Jochen Edrich, Dr. Erwin Grotzbach, Hans Huber, Eng. Rainer Kofferlein and Eng. Ekkehard Riibel (Lit. 12), found time to climb about 40 peaks, most of them five-thousanders.

The same route was followed by the Munich Reconnaissance of 1964, reaching its fields of operations, the Rakhuy Valley, which falls into the Munjam near Iskazer, by way of the 4,700- metre Piw Pass. The members were Chemist Ernst Haase, his brother Wolfgang, Erwin Rinkl and Walter Straass (Lit. 12). The two last-named lie buried in the Rakhuy Valley, casualties of the exploration of the Hindu Kush. Seventeen five-thousand- metre peaks fell to this expedition.

The highest summits of the Khwaja-Muhammad range are at its centre and run up to 5,700 or 5,800 metres. The northern and southern sectors are as yet unexplored. To the north, Hezrat-i-Muhammad (c. 4,600 m.) was climbed by British students in 1955.

Along the ‘Seam ' between the Central and High Hindu Kush

The traveller from Faizabad into the Wakhan goes by way of the Kokcha Valley, then along the Warduj to Zebak and over the Sardab Pass (c. 2,800 m.), Ishkashim. At Zebak the Warduj is formed by the union of the Sanglich and Dehgol (Daigul) Valleys. This area to the east of the Bandaka group is a veritable region of passes. The Mandro Col coming from the north-east and the Mach Valley from the south-east, to form the Dehgol Valley, lead to passes across the Afghanistan frontier (the Khatinza, Nuqsan, Agram and Mach Passes). Along the Sanglich Valley it is possible to march not only to Munjan but, by ascending a lateral valley to its right, the Rosdara Valley, over the Mandal Pass to the Basghal Valley of Nuristan, or over the Dorah Pass into Chitral.

In 1917 St. Bilkiewicz and W. Korsak, the first Poles in the Hindu Kush, ascended the Agram Pass after traversing the high 'round in the bend of the Oxus. The first mountaineering reconnaissance of this area was carried out by the 1964 Expedition of the Bremen Section of the Deutsche Alpenverein. Its members were Eng. J. Ruf (Leader), Heinz Pfalzgraf, Hermann and Veit Steiner and Peter Winter (Lit. 13, 14). They climbed peaks in the upper reaches of the Rosdara and Mack Valleys as well as in the neighbourhood of the Nuqsan and Agram Passes. There was also a Japanese Expedition at work here in the same ye^ar, coming from the Academic Section of the University of Nagoya Alpine Club. It pushed forward towards the Bandaka group and climbed a five-thousander. Their hopes, like those of the Bremen Party, of a permit to enter Wakhan, however, foundered.

The Pakistan Hindu Kush

As already explained, this term includes not only the ' High' Hindu Kush, but all the ranges and peaks between it, the Karakorum and the Indus. Its exploration from the mountaineering aspect has at all times been particularly affected by political considerations. In 1895 Chitral was part of the British Indian sphere of power, which meant the presence of British military officers and civilians of the Land Survey. Two officers, C. G. Bruce and Francis Younghusband, accompanied by Gurkhas, had climbed Ishpero Zom (c. 4,300 m.), in the Lutkho bend as early as 1893. When, in March 1920, Capt. T. G. Longstaff gave an account of his wanderings through Gilgit at the Alpine Club, Younghusband, by now Sir Francis, a Colonel and President of the Royal Geographical Society, was among the audience and was able to add an interesting tail-piece from his own experiences. He told of his famous encounter in the early nineties way up in the Little Pamir with Colonel Yanoff who, after the annexation of the Pamir, made a cheerful excursion with his Cossacks into Afghanistan territory-a meeting which transformed itself into solemn protests and attitudes at Ambassadorial level and so led to the setting up of the Wakhan Strip of Afghanistan, destined thenceforth to separate Russia from British India. Whereupon the northern flank of the High Hindu Kush was closed for more than half a century to any mountaineering ventures (Lit. 15).

The British Land Survey was, however, at work in the valleys and on the more modest peaks of Chitral. In the neighbourhood of Buni Zom (6,543 m.) with its splendid view over the Tirich Mir group, they placed their loftiest triangulation point. The officer commanding the Chitral Scouts, Col. Lawder, even sought a route up 7,700-metre Tirich Mir itself. At the time the Chitralis still believed in mountain-spirits, ready to protect their glistening haunts ; and the fact that many of the brave pioneers of mountaineering in Chitral, such as Capt. Coldstream, Lt. D. N. B. Hunt and Lt. D. M. Burn, met violent deaths did nothing to dispel the superstitions of the natives. None the less some of them were persuaded to act as porters. The classical era of mountaineering in Chitral was soon to be ushered in by attacks on the three high seven-thousanders, all of which rise from plinths extruding southwards from the main ridge of the range.

At this point, however, we must abandon a chronological presentation of events and return to our plan of dealing with the opening up of these ranges valley by valley, geographically.

The Arkari Valley

This valley, whose upper reaches are also known by the names of Sad Istragh Gol and Kurobakho Gol, comes down from the triangular north-west corner-itself hemmed in by the triangle here formed by the frontier-ridge-of Chitral. In this area, quite close to Sad Istragh (5,852 m.) the Sad Istragh An (5,167 m.) and Chap An (5,246 m.) Passes lead across into the Qazi Deh Valley of the Wakhan. The Nuqsan Gol and Agram Gol fall into its right-hand side, coming down from the passes of the same names. The Besti Valley, barred by a spur from the huge re-entrant of the upper Lutkho Valley, does not itself lead up to the frontier. Important passes do, however, lead across the Afghan-Pakistani frontiers by the Lutkho into Chitral- the Dorah, Semenek and Mach. The eastern side of the valley offers the greater interest. Here, the Upper Gazikistan Glacier reaches up to the very foot of 6,450-metre Asp-e-Safed, while the Lower Gazikistan starts at the base of Ghul Lasht Zom (6,665 m.) and its neighbours. The Mushtaru Gol re-entrant embraces more than seven miles of the Tirich Glacier's western rim, ending to the south at the Gham Glacier, separated by the narrow southern arm of the Tirich Glacier from the main massif of Tirich Mir. The Dir Gol which opens up at the village of Arkari comes down from the Dirgol Glacier on Tirich Mir's South-West Face. Reginald Schomberg visited the Lutkho, Agram and Nuqsan Valleys and also brought back valuable photographs of both Gazikistan Glaciers ; in the Mushtaru Gol he attained i considerable altitude on the Khada-Barma slope, whence he managed to catch a glimpse of Tirich Mir. We owe the first reliable reports about the valleys and glaciers of north-west Chitral to this British scientist. From the mountaineering standpoint, the Arkari Valley still awaits reconnaissance ; it should be possible to explore from it systematically the ridges and peaks (four- and five-thousanders) to its west; but still more interesting, of course, would be attempts, say, on the Ghul-Lasht-Zom group to the east and the peaks forming the Tirich Glacier's western rim (Lit. 16).

The Valleys and Glaciers to the South of the Tirich Mir Group

Tirich Mir's huge ice-slopes and those of its satellites enclose, to their south, the Owis and Barum (southern and northern) Glaciers besides the Dirgol Glacier already mentioned. These are reached by way of the Barum Valley, which here falls into the Kukar, here known as the Chitral, but whose upper reaches are known as the Mastuj and Yarkhun. The Ojchor and Partsan Valleys, too, adjoining the Lutkho, lead up to Tirich Mir. Dr. A. Herrlich and Dr. W. Roemes of the 1935 Deutsche Himalayan Expedition pushed forward out of the Ojchor to the western rim of the South Barum Glacier. In 1939 Messrs. Miller, Orgill and Smeaton, following J. R. G. Finch's 1938 footsteps reached it by ascending from the Owir Glacier, between S-shaped Glacier Peak (c. 6,700 m.) and Little Tirich Mir (c. 6,361 m.\ the first of which they climbed (Lit. 17, pp. 7, 8).

It was from the South Barum Glacier that in 1950 after the previous year's thorough reconnaissance, the Norwegian Tirich Mir Expedition, led by Arne Naess and consisting of Henry Berg, Hans Chr. Bugge, Per Kvernberg and Capt. Tony Streathery among others, climbed the peak by a hazardous route described by Naess as 'the ideal short cut'. After they had established Camp 9 on the summit ridge at about 7,132 metres Kvernberg reached the summit on July 22, Naess, Berg and Streather next day (Lit. 17).

It was not till 1964 that Naess could get a permit to attempt the East Summit (7,692 m.), separated from the main summit by a 500-foot notch. This had been attempted unsuccessfully in 1962 by Fritz Stammberger in a solo effort, as well as by an American Party under F. Knauth. The 1964 Norwegian Tirich Mir Expedition (Leader, Arne Naess ; members, Dr. Kjell Friis- Baastad, Ralph Hoibakk, Anders Opdal and Per Vigerust) (Lit. 18) made this their objective.

The old route and the new went hand in hand to Camp 4 (5,200 m.). Here the route to the East Peak diverged on to the South Face. The climb has been fully reported in the mountaineering journals. We know that bad weather only permitted a two-man Camp 6 (Integral) to be established and that Camp 7 had to be dispensed with in favour of a bivouac. Hoibakk and Opdal unfurled the Norwegian and Pakistani flags on the summit on July 25. Meanwhile in 1964 an American Hindu Kush Expedition made an attempt on the same summit from the North Barum Glacier and succeeded in climbing some five- thousanders.

The Tirich Valley and its Neighbours

Near Kuragh the main stream of the Chitral is joined by the Mulikho, known further up as the Turikho and its headwaters as the Rich. This river separates the High Hindu Kush from the five-thousanders between it and the Yarkhun. Its most important tributary is the Tirich. Important secondary valleys coming down from the main ridge of the Hindu Kush are the Rosh Gol and the Udren Gol. The small Lower Tirich Glacier is jammed between the main Tirich Mir Massif and the Tirich Mir North group. All the rest is the Upper Tirich Glacier, its arms reaching across to the satellites of Ghul Lasht Zom, to Noshaq northwards and encircling Istor-o-Nal. It is enclosed by clusters of ridges, branching out from the main crest of the Hindu Kush. We are already familiar with its western rim, soaring finally to the Tirich Mir Massif. The fantastically- branching northern and eastern rim, which repeatedly branches again, swings down from the Noshaq summits to Istor-o-Nal.

Schomberg was the first to extol the beauty of the marvellous scenery he had surveyed from his viewpoint beside the Upper Tirich. He told of a historic way across to the Upper Gazikistan in the Arkari Valley and onwards to Afghanistan, which was barred by ice 120 to 150 years ago. Up till 1965 the only climbing ventures from the Upper Tirich had been on Istor-o-Nal (7,389 m.). Two parties of British officers-Button, Burn, Coldstream and Culverwell in 1929 and R. J. Lawder and Denis N. B. Hunt in 1935-found the long summit ridge too much for them. Success came when, on June 8, 1955, Joseph E. Murphy and Thos. A. Mutch of the Princeton Mountaineering Club's Expedition, following the same route as their predecessors up a couloir and then along the summit ridge, managed to establish i camp on it and so found the key to the first ascent of the peak.

The glacier tract lying to the east of the true left-hand rim of the Upper Tirich Glacier is also split into several arms. The aorthern arm comes down from Nadir Shah (given as 7,125 m. but somewhat lower according to recent measurements) and Shachaur (7,116 m.); the central and southern arms embrace the ridge which pushes eastwards from Noshaq. These are marked as the Atrak Glacier on the maps and sketches available to all those who attempt the peaks of the High Hindu Kush, that is to say, the sketch-map of the main ridges made by the Poles, Bieb and Wala, the sketch-maps in ' Parapamiso' (see Lit. 24) and those by Finch, as w7ell as on the International World Map.

When in 1964 Dr. Gerald Gruber parked his Haflinger jeep near Kuragh, to lead his party over the Zani Pass (c. 3,900 m.) and continued up the Tirich Valley, he was trying to reach the Northern Atrak Glacier. From it-as he had seen from Noshaq in 1963-he could best attack Shachaur, which he had failed to climb from the north in that year. But there, in the Tirich Valley, the geographer met with a remarkable surprise about the local nomenclature. The following is a quotation from a personal letter to the author:

' About a mile after leaving Shagrom the path crosses from the true left bank of the river to its right. The streams falling from the Tirich and Atrak Glaciers join one another just above the bridge. At this point in order to reach our chosen mountains we should have to turn off northwards, towards the Atrak Glacier. We had explained this to our interpreters and the porters. You can imagine our astonishment when the whole column none the less went on westwards and made to pass the above-mentioned valley (the Atrak) by. When we halted it and pointed to the north, they kept on shaking their heads saying " Udren!" '

So Dr. Gruber is in a position to confirm that the descriptions on the various maps are incorrect. The natives call this lateral valley Udren, also the glacier, except that they refer to its northern end as Darban, Atrak, on the other hand, is a district to the south of Istor-o-Nal, as well as the name of a summer habitation to the west of Shagrom, and Atak Zom the peak to its north. The Upper Tirich, as well as the Udren and Darban offer suitable bases for attempts on unclimbed six- and seven-thousanders in the Tirich Mir-Istor-o-Nal-Noshaq area. Dr. Rudolf Pischinger, who was on Noshaq and Shachaur with Dr. Gruber, has reported and published material on the climbing possibilities here; I quote the most important from a summary available to me:



(1) The Noshaq Massif: The main summit could be climbed from the Upper Tirich or the Darban. Unclimbed peaks are P. 7,291[1] and several six-thousanders to its east (accessible from both glaciers), P. 7,220[2] (from the Darban only), P. 6,999 (from both glaciers). It is possible to envisage long traverses in which Noshaq would be included.

(2) Istor-o-Nal Massif: The main summit rises at the southwest rim of a high glacier-cwm. From a high camp in this re-entrant a clear sweep could be made of the whole massif. However, it might prove very difficult to establish such a camp,, since the cwm falls away to the east in cliffs of ice and rock. It should be possible to reach P. 7,248 from P. 6,999 by its West Ridge, and a traverse either to or from the main summit is on the cards. Istor-o-Nal throws out to its east at least two ridges with several six-thousanders in them, the finest being Atak Zom (6,087 m.).

(3) The Tirich Mir group: The direct route, up the North Face, looks technically difficult and exposed to external hazards, but it might be possible bsy way of the East Peak's eastern ridge. The four summits of the western group of Tirich Mir could be reached from the south or from the southern arm of the Upper Tirich Glacier. Both ascents might be quite difficult and demand a traverse of the western summit, if the highest (eastern) peak of the group is to be reached. The continuation of this traverse to Tirich Mir's main summit would constitute one of the greatest climbing ventures in the Hindu Kush, but would probably require two parties working independently. The highest summit of the Tirich Mir northern group, with its triple peaks, can be reached from the southern arm of the Upper Tirich (Lit. 20)[3]. Once given as 7,059 metres, it is less: according to recent measurements.

After clarification of the situation, the 1964 Styrian Expedition (Leader, Dr. Gerald Gruber; members, his wife Hildegund, Dr. Rudolf Pischinger, Rainer Goschl and Horst Schindlbacher) turned northwards up the Udren Valley.

‘We had looked across from Noshaq the year before and seen that in order to climb Shachaur we should have to reach the glacier basin to its south. Unfortunately we were unable to see over on to the lower part of the ascent; now it lay before our eyes. To reach the glacier basin in question, which ended in a cliff about 4,000 feet above us, we should have to ascend a fearfully crevassed glacier, contained on the right-hand side of the route by a rock pillar, next to which a snow-couloir led upwards. We sited Camp 1 (5,400 m.) on the pillar, Camp 2 (6,200 m.) in the broad hollow of the glacier above it, and on Aug. 17 Dr. Pischinger and I climbed Shachaur by its Southwest Face. Between Shachaur and the mountain to its south, which used to be called Shachaur II, there is a notch more than 2,000 feet deep. Since this peak is in no way connected to Shachaur and is also the highest summit in the whole Udren Valley, we renamed it Udren Zom (7,131 m.).' Gruber and Pischinger climbed it on Aug. 19 and Schindlbacher repeated the climb on the 22nd. On Aug. 20 Goschl and Schindlbacher made the third ascent of Nadir Shah from the Col between it and Shachaur, by its East Ridge (Lit. 21). Dr. Gruber thinks that Kishmi Khan and Nadir Shah are lower than Shachaur and Udren Zom.

Schomberg was delighted with the beauty of the lower Rosh Valley. Here he found the remains of ancient forts, guarding an old track across into the Wakhan. Not only does the Rosh Valley lead to the faces of Udren Zom, Shachaur, Languta Barft and the Langar peaks, between Languta Barfi and Shachaur there is also a crossing into the Shachaur Valley (Kotgaz-An). In 1958 an Oxford-Chitral Expedition (Lit. 22), consisting of E. W. Norris (Leader), P. S. Nelson, F. S. Plumpton, W. G. Roberts and N. A. G. Rogers, made an attempt on Saraghrar (7,349 m.) and reached a height of 6,600 metres by way of a steep couloir. Their route would have brought them to a col on the ridge joining the mountain with the Langar group and thence, joining the Italian route, to the summit of Saraghrar. Nelson fell to his death and this caused the abandonment of the expedition ; just as the fatal fall of Prof. W. Mohammed Khan in 1963 had led to the abandonment of P. Farquhar's Expedition, whose objective was Ishpandar Sor (c. 6,090 m.) (Lit. 23). According to Dr. Gruber, the seven-thousanders fall to the Rosh Col in steep faces, Saraghrar in savage rock buttresses, some of them 10,000 feet high.

The Ziwar Gol

This lateral valley of the Turikho was explored in 1959 by an advance party of the Spedizione Romana all'Hindu Kush, 1959. Its members were: Fosco Maraini (Leader), Franco Alleto, Giancarlo Castelli, Paolo Consiglio, Silvio Jovane, Franco Lambert i, Enrico Leone and Carlo Alberto Pinelli (Lit. 24).

The main body crossed two passes from Washich to Gram Shal in the Ziwar Gol, bound for Saraghrar, whose long ridge- crest is bounded by the tongues of two glaciers. From the northern one, the Hushko, there is no route to be contemplated, but from the southern, the Niroghi, after many abortive attempts, they found the successful route by the Roma Glacier and the 4 spur' to the summit ridge. Their last two camps were sited below and above a secondary seven-thousander. On Aug. 24 Alletto and Consiglio, followed by Castelli and Pinelli, planted the Italian flag on the highest point of Saraghrar.

Marcus Schmuck, the leader of the Reconnaissance by the Salzburg Section of the O.A.V. in 1963, reached Chitral by plane with Walter Frisch and Martin Gmachl. They followed roughly the same route as the Italians, with their porters and donkeys, to Gram Shal in the Ziwar Gol, covering about 100 miles in eight days. It had been Schmuck's intention to climb one of the peaks in the chain of crests running from Urgend to Akhar Chioh, starting from the Hushko Glacier. So the Salzburg party explored it far into the west, where there was said to be an ancient crossing, the Galati Kotal, leading northwards. They failed to find a route to Urgend, and a single glance up at flanks of the last seven-thousanders of the High Hindu Kush, Koh-i-Tez (7,015 m.) and Akher Chioh (7,020 m.) from the Shoghordok Glacier at their feet dictated a retreat. Only the south ridge of Pt. 6,855 which falls to the Hushko looked feasible. They needed three camps to support their attack on this ridge, protected as it is by towers, nieves penitentes and finally by a 40° ice-slope 800 metres high. On Sept. 20, they stood on the summit now called Koh-i-Shoghordok (6,855 m.) admiring the wonderful circular view and then proceeded along the hollow, about half a mile long, to capture the next peak beyond it, Koh-i-Shayoz (c. 6,920 m.). The panorama taken by Schmuck from its summit shows nearly all the seven-thousanders of the High Hindu Kush as well as the possible climbing areas to the east, in the Lutkho group. This highly successful reconnaissance took a surprisingly short time, Schmuck being absent from Salzburg only 33 days (Lit. 29).

Uzhnu Gol: the Northern Glaciers

In 1935 Schomberg had visited the Uzhnu Gol, which falls into the Turikho to the north of the Ziwar Gol. He came from the latter by way of a col to the Chikar Glacier, whose torrent he followed down to the Uzhnu Gol, crossing its narrow canyon on a snow-bridge. He wanted to get to the Kotgaz Glacier, to the north, but the raging waters of the Shah Gol coming down from the glacier of that name barred his way. So he could see only the lower half of the Kotgaz, which with its twin, the Chhutidum Glacier, runs for 12 miles or more beside the main ridge of the Hindu Kush from the ‘Krakau Plateau' to the north of Koh-i-Tez right across to Lunkho (6,870 m.). This is all virgin climbing territory[4], as are the Mirch Long, Kach and Shah Jinali Glaciers, which are the sources of the Rich. The Kushrao and East Kushrao Glaciers, to the south of the Baba Tangi group, already form part of the fringe-areas of the Yarkhun.

Between the High Hindu Kush and the Indus

There is neither space nor sufficient documentation for a systematic survey of this area, which embraces widely differing types of country. Neither the impressively-glaciated northern range to the right bank of the Yarkhun nor the ranges enclosing the approach to Gilgit (Hinduraj, viz. the old boundary of Kashmir) nor the various groups of peaks within the Gilgit Agency have been the subject of well-documented mountaineering reconnaissance. There are, however, descriptions, first by Longstaff and later by Schomberg, with good photographs to support the latter. In 1956 and 1957 two well-equipped scientific Japanese-Pakistani Expeditions were at work here, the second of which attempted Shahan Dok (6,237 m.). The peaks at the head of the Laspur Valley also remain unexplored, though Herbert Tichy did some climbing here in 1959. There are still unclimbed peaks in the Buni-Zo Massif.[5] Only in Upper Swat are there some slight records of exploration in the range which runs from north to south, to the east of Ushu and the Upper Swat Valley, whose main summits are Falak Sar (5,918 m.), the Batin Peaks, the Siri Dara group and Mankial (5,715 m.). The publication of the geographical report of the S.U.C.A.I. Expedition under Prof. Pinelli, which did further work hereabouts in 1964, is awaited with great interest, for Kalam in Upper Swat, with its bus communications to the south, is the ideal centre for light expeditions (Lit. 25, 26, 27, 28). Along the frontier towards Chitral and Gilgit the Italians climbed several five-thousanders as well as others in the central chain. In 1964 the Cambridge- Chitral Expedition climbed the most important summits of the Siri Dara group.

The Wakhan Hindu Kush

The main crest of the High Hindu Kush is shared by the two countries abutting it, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Since 1960 the valleys falling northwards to the Oxus (Amu Darya, Ab-i-Panja, Ab-i-Wakhan) have provided the starting-point for interesting attacks on the main ridge's seven-thousanders. Since the turn of the century, as already explained, the Wakhan, the Afghan strip along the upper Oxus, has acted as a buffer-wedge between north and south ; nor was there any change when the patrols on the river's north bank wore the five-pointed star on their caps and Pakistan inherited the North-West Frontier and Chitral from the British Indian sphere after the Second World War. Before the turn of the century, the Wakhan had been a real corridor leading to the great silk routes over the Pamir Passes into Sinkiang and over the Wakhan Passes of the Hindu Kush and Karakorum to Chitral and Kashmir. Europeans had visited the Wakhan, not only the Polo brothers, but T. D. Forsyth's scientists, Sven Hedin and then, of course, the Frontier Commissions. There were then quite clearly no difficulties about permits in this no-man's land. Kenneth Mason writes of completely undisputed and acceptable meetings between Younghusband (and other Britons) and a Russian, a Frenchman and a German, over in Tashkurghan,4 without an official passport of any kind ', in 1889 (Lit. 30, p. 102).

It was the Japanese and the Poles who next knocked at the door into the Wakhan, barred to climbers for more than half a century. Goro Iwatsubo, who was the first to climb Noshaq, kindly wrote to me: ‘When the Pakistan Government refused our request for Saltoro Kangri, we immediately thought of a peak in the Hindu Kush and discovered Noshaq's existence in Vol. XVII, 1952, of the Himalayan Journal. We decided to attack our mountain from the Afghan side.' After a month's tedious waiting, Kabul at last gave a permit, not for the desired reconnaissance throughout the Wakhan, intended to throw light on ihe Afghan sector of the Pamir, but only for the entrance into Wakhan. This meant concentrating on Noshaq. For Polish mountaineers the approach to the Hindu Kush from the north was particularly handy, for it is almost possible to reach the northern foot of the range by rail across Russia. The leader of the First Polish Expedition, Eng. B. Chwascinski, was good enough to inform me that he was engaged in civil engineering in Afghanistan before the war and, though he knew how undisturbed the summits of the Hindu Kush were, was unable to put his plans for an expedition into practice till after it. In literature and on the map he discovered Noshaq, the second highest summit in the Hindu Kush.

The Qazi-Deh Valley

This is the first of the Wakhan Valleys, a long one, starting where the main ridge, turning first south from Sad Ishtragh, suddenly swings north-east again near Asp-e-Safed (6,450 m.) towards Noshaq's west peak. Dr. Gruber is responsible for an exhaustive description. Its most important tributary comes in from the east, the Mandaras Valley. There is a track to its west, in the Wakhan Gol, leading over the Sad Istragh An Pass into Chitral. Besides its five-thousanders, the rim of the valley thrusts up Gumbaz-e-Safed (c. 6,800 m.), Asp-e-Safed and the west peak of Noshaq (c. 7,250 m.); its neighbours, Noshaq itself (7,492 m.) and the East Peak (7,480 m.) lording it over a long lateral easterly spur, are in Pakistan.

The first visitors to the Qazi-Deh Valley were the Japanese Hindu Kush Expedition of the Academic Alpine Club of Kyoto University, whose members were Prof. Pajiro Sakato, Dr. Riozo Yosii, Dr. Hideho Sawata, Eng. Yukiharu Hirose, Toshiaki Sakai and Goro Jwatsubo (Lit. 31). The Japanese took a line towards Noshaq's summit, hidden from the valley, over the Qazi-Deh Glacier to the south col north-east of Asp-e-Safed and thence along the ridge towards Noshaq. They sited a camp below the col and another up on the ridge. On Aug. 17, 1960, Goro Iwatsubo and Toshiaki Sakai pushed forward to the summit.

The First Polish Hindu Kush Expedition of 1960, organized by the Wysokogorski Club, was led by Eng. Bolestaw Chwascinski (see above). Its other members were Krysztof Berbeka, Stanislaw Biel, Jerzy Krajski, Zbiginiew Krysa, Stanislaw Kulinski, Bronislaw Kunicki, Witold Lesniewicz, Jan Mostowski, Zbigniew Rubinowski, Sergiusz Sprudin and Stanislaw Zierhoffer (Lit. 32).

At first neither the Japanese nor the Poles knew that both parties were heading for the same valley and the same peak. On Aug. 5 they met in the Qazi-Deh Valley. The Poles already knew of their bad luck, when Prof. Sakai came down to Ishkashim from the 4 front' in the Qazi-Deh Valley to get a photographer's licence. A joint operation was no longer possible, for the Poles were not sufficiently acclimatized. So they contented themselves with repeating the Japanese route to Noshaq 10 days later, placing two camps on the ridge. They took a detailed look at the Qazi-Deh Valley, climbed Asp-e-Safed and Rach-e-Daros (5,685 m.) by way of the 4 Polish' Glacier, also Khorpusht-e- Yakhi (5,698 m.). An attempt on Gumbaz-e-Safed failed owing to bad weather. They also explored neighbouring valleys. Eng. Biel sketched out the details of the map later finished by Jerzy Wala, which finally took in everything to beyond Koh-i-Tez. This map was later on essential for all subsequent reconnaissances.

Hindu Kush  Map 1

Hindu Kush Map 1

In 1963 there were again two expeditions in this valley. Both were Austrian: Dr. Gerald Gruber s Styrian Expedition and Hans Pilz's Upper Austrian Reconnaissance. The other participants were Dr. Rudolf Pischinger, Eng. Norbert Zernig, Sepp Weber, Manfred Schober, of the Styrian party ; and Siegfried Jungmair, Matthias Hofpointner and Gerhard Werner from Upper Austria.

They both joined up in a successful attack on Noshaq by a new 4 Austrian' route up the western rib. This meant the traverse of all the three summits of Noshaq. The O.A.V. Journal of 1964 contains a detailed description of this highly successful operation (Lit. 33, 34).

The Styrians had to leave first for home. The Upper Austrians repeated the ascent of Khorpusht-e-Yakhi. Their finest performance was their climb of Gumbaz-e-Safed (6,800 m.), the valley's highest six-thousander, on which, from Sept. 7 to 9, 1960, the Poles, Biel, Krajski and Kunicki had put out such great efforts when from a camp at about 5,840 metres they finally failed at c. 6,300.

Pilz, Hofpointner and Jungmair established a tent at about 5,800 metres, at the upper end of a rock spur which plunges steeply southwards from the mountain's west ridge. They had already decided on this site from over on Noshaq and it was hoped to reach the summit from it without a camp or a bivouac in between. A short ice-slope gave access to the ridge and the way ahead was made interesting by the wonderful view sheer down into the valley and the impressive panorama of the great peaks of the Hindu Kush and Pamirs. 4 The first part of the ridge was soft and offered no great difficulties, but we were slowed up by the steep pitch to the first crest in the ridge at about 6,100 metres, though we soon mastered the buttress. The slope beyond it impressed us greatly, for we knew it was here that a strong Polish party had been forced to turn back three years before. And, as we fought our way up the steep slope to the second tower at about 6,300 metres through deep newly-drifted snow, we understood well enough why the Poles, beset by bad weather, had had to turn back. We were on the second summit by 11 o'clock. The route beyond it caused us much trouble for though the crenellated ridge ran on more or less horizontally, it was terribly corniced and decorated with rock-towers. Moreover, the cornices were often deeply crevassed and then covered by drifted powder-snow. We could see the summit slope beyond the horizontal piece and there did not look to be any difficulties on it, except wind and altitude.' The Austrians were already under pressure of time and climbed on unroped; cornices and crevasses often bit deep into the slopes ; finally, a broad saddle marked the start of the long icy summit slope. The wind grew stronger and stronger and extra top-clothing had to be put on. 'And so we tramped on, slowly but without ever stopping, with Siegi always in the lead, Marti between us, and myself bringing up the rear. We kept on thinking we were on top, only to be disappointed by great wind-blown hummocks. But at last we were really on the summit, over which a snow-banner was flying.' (From an article by H. Pilz.)

Summary of the Ascents from the Valley

Noshaq Main Summit, 7,492 m., Aug. 17, 1960: T. Sakai, G. Iwatsubo, (Japanese H.E.); Aug. 27, 1960: Berbeka, Biel, Krajski, Kulinski Mostowski, Rubinowski, Zierhoffer (first Polish H.E.); Aug. 21, 1963: Gruber, Hofpointner, Jungmair, Pilz, Pischinger, Schober, Werner (Styrian and Upper Austrian H.E.).

Noshaq West Summit, 7,250 m., Aug. 21, 1963: The above- mentioned Austrians.

Noshaq East Summit, 7,480 m., Aug. 21, 1963: Gruber, Pischinger.

Gumbaz-e-Safed, c. 6,800 m., Aug. 30, 1963: Hofpointner, Jungmair, Pilz (Upper Austrian Rec.).

Asp-e-Safed, 6,450 m., Sept. 4, 1960: Kulinski Mostowski, Rubinowski, Sprudin (first Polish H.E.).

Khorpusht-e-Yakhi, 5,698 m., Sept. 6, 1960: Biel, Krajski,

Lesniewicz (first Polish H.E.); Aug. 28, 1963: Hofpointner, Jungmair, Werner.

Rach-e-Daros, 5,685 m., Sept. 5, 1960: Berbeka, Zierhoffer.

Each of the Austrian parties bagged another five-thousander, a ridge peak on Khorpusht-e-Yakhi.

Dr. Stanislaw Zierhoffer, leader of the Second Polish expedition of 1962, who had been on Noshaq in 1960, divided it into two separate working parties:

The ' Posen ' (Poznari) Group: Eng. Henryk Dembinski, Eng. Jan Dobrogowski, Mgr. Antoni Gasiorowski, Eng. Jerzy Mitkie- wicz, Dr. Ryszard Schramm, Dr. Jan Stryczynski the French climbers Jean Brunaud, Michel Ginat, Bernard Langevin and Francois Moreau (Groupe Universitaire de Montagne et de Ski); and

The ‘Krakau' (Krakow) Group: Eng. Stanislaw Biel (Leader), Eng. Marian Bala, Eng. Maciej Baranowski, Eng. Henryk Cioncka, Eng. Karol Jakubowski, Mgr. Roman Lazarski, Eng. Jerzy Krajski, Eng. Waldemar Olech, Dr. Adam Pachalski (Lit. 35).

BieL led the ‘Krakau' group, a real ‘hiking party', away to the east as far as the valley of Urgend-i-Bala. Zierhoffer took his ‘Posen' group into the Mandaras Valley.

Following an old custom, the Poles gave each of their peaks temporary working names, numbering the Mandaras summits M-l to M-10. The very first reconnaissance left one of the two seven-thousanders, Kishmi Khan (c. 7,200) ‘aside and also M-2 (c. 6,588 m.). So the most careful preparations were mounted for the attack on the other seven-thousander, M-4, later known as Koh-i-Nadir Shah (7,125 m.)’. The lower peaks were useful not only for training purposes but also for the study of possible routes on M-4. A traverse from the neighbouring peaks M-3, M-5 and M-4 a to M-4 was also considered; these fell to attempts by their bordering ridges. But the route to M-4 which was finally to bring success on Koh-i-Nadir Shah ran along a spur carrying the towers M-3 a and M-3Z? to the west col (Camp 2 at 6,050 m.) and up the summit ridge (with Camp 3 at 6,600 m.) to the conquest of the summit. When a second ascent was made, the possibility of a traverse to Shachaur (7,116 m.) was taken into account, but with negative results. The very successful work of the 4 Posen' group concluded with the ascent of the very difficult M-8 (Koh-i-Mandaras, 6,631 m.).

Hindu Kush Map 2

Hindu Kush Map 2

6 Lower according to recent measurements.

Summary of their climbs

M-5, c. 6,000 m., Aug. 9, 1962: Stryczynski, Zierhoffer.

M-3, c. 6,100 m., Aug. 14: Demihski, Langevin, Stryczynski, Zierhoffer.

M-4a, c. 6,300 m., Aug. 16: Ginat, Mitkiewicz, Moreau.

Nadir Shah, 7,125 m., Aug. 27: Dobrogowski, Gasiorowski, Mitkiewicz ; Aug. 29: Ginat, Moreau, Langevin, Schramm, Stryczynski, Zierhoffer.

Koh-i-Mandaras, 6,631 m., Sept. 4: Stryczynski, Zierhoffer.

The Valleys of Warg and Kishmi Kfian

These lie to the east of the Qazi-Deh. Polish climbers reconnoitred the Warg Valley as early as 1960, hoping to find another approach route to Noshaq here. In 1962 Bala and Krajski climbed over the North Col (Hali Kotal) into the Kishmi Khan Valley. Biel and Olech climbed Koh-i-Kalat (c. 5,650 m.), an observation point standing at the junction of the two valleys, on Sept. 9, 1962.

However, the exploration of both valleys remains for all time linked with the name of Sepp Kutschera, who led the First Austrian Hindu Kush Expedition into the High Hindu Kush in 1962. Its members were: Sepp Kutschera (Leader), Helmut Haslwanter, Roger Senarclens De Grancy and Hans Fischer. They tried their luck in the Kishmi Khan Valley. Aerial photographs and reports of the 4 Posen' group gave them Kishmi Khan (Kesnikhan on the new hand survey), 7,200 metres high,6 as their objective. They lost a great deal of time through delay in the transport of their equipment and only started out from Warg on Sept. 30,

‘The proud mass of Kesnikhan rises at the head of the valley to its imposing stature. Its heavily-iced North Face is contained on the left by a very steep ridge running NNE., on the right by a less steep West Ridge more than a mile long. This ridge starts at a shoulder at about 5,300 metres, continues over a dome in the ridge at about 6,100 and ends under a roof-like ice-cliff at about 6,500. This ice-reef leads up to a prominent rock-band at nearly 7,000 metres and so to a subsidiary summit, from which a snow ridge leads to the summit- structure proper, armoured with a precipice some 200 metres high. Not until the peak was climbed was it established that the mountain has rather indefinite twin summits of almost similar altitude.' (Quotation from a report by De Grancy.) Kutschera and Haslwanter established Camp 2 on the saddle at the start of the ridge ; they then reconnoitred the ridge for some way and climbed down again. Bad weather prevented their going up some way and they climbed down again. But bad weather prevented their going up again over the 350-metre-high ice-wall to evacuate Camp 2. This was done later by a special operation in 1963.

   Koh-I-Kishmi khan (7,200 m.) from Kalat.   (Sepp Kutschera)

Koh-I-Kishmi khan (7,200 m.) from Kalat. (Sepp Kutschera)

Hindu Kush Map 3

Hindu Kush Map 3

In 1963 Kutschera led another party, that of the Austrian Hindu Kush Expedition of the Leoben Miners' High School, to the same area. He took with him Alois Maier, Werner Pongratz and Rainer Weiss. Leaving Leoben as early as mid-June, taking all their baggage with them in a Mercedes LKW, they established their first two camps higher up than the year before. They also chose a different route. There is a rib falling due northwards from the 6,100-metre snow-dome already mentioned in describing the West Ridge to the Kishmi Khan Glacier. Up this steep buttress they reached the 6,000-metre level to the east of the dome, and there sited a new Camp 2. By so doing, they saved themselves half the mile-long ridge climb and gained altitude much more rapidly. Kutschera and Pongratz, who were later to attack the summit together, then established Camp 3 at the end of the ridge, close under the ice-roof which ensues. On July 27 they mastered the exposed ' roof' of ice and reached the subsidiary summit by way of a couloir through the rock- band. A narrow ridge took them to the foot of the 200-metre ice-wall and, after they had got up it, another sharply-crested connecting ridge led to the main summit. Kishmi Khan had given in, and on the 28th Maier and Weiss also reached the top. This was the first time the Austrian flag had fluttered from a summit of the High Hindu Kush (Lit. 37).

After repeating the ascent of Kalat on Aug. 5, the Austrians moved into the Warg Valley. Here at the eastern head of the valley rises Koh-i-Warg (6,500 m.) and to its west Koh-i- Spurditsch (6,300 m.), so named after they had been climbed. 4 Two savagely crevassed glaciers fall to the left and right of a rock barrier to the bottom of the valley.' On Aug. 16, Kutschera, Pongratz and Maier climbed the eastern glacier to a glacier- cwm, through whose maze of crevasses Weiss guided them from Camp 1, by means of a telescope and a walkie-talkie radio. They placed Camp 2 at 6,200 metres and, next day, climbed Koh-i-Warg by a snow ridge. On the 18th, Camp 2 was evacuated, the equipment cached in a depot on the long ridge which joins Koh-i-Warg and Koh-i-Spurditsch, up which they had moved forward, and the summit of the latter ascended. The return was made by way of the depot and the glacier on the West Face. This first visit by the Austrians thus ended highly successfully.

The Shachaur Valley

This area includes four high peaks, Kishmi Khan, Nadir Shah, Languta and, at the head of the valley, Shachaur itself. As early as 1962 the Polish ( Krakau' group had been interested in Shachaur. The Third Polish Expedition of 1963 chose the valley as its sphere of operations. It was led by Andrzej Wilczkowski and its members were Tadeusz Bartczak, Thomasz Gozdecki, Marek Grochowski, Maciej Gryczynski, Bogdan Mac, Andrzej Miller, Jerzy Michalski, Antoni Tokarski and Jerzy Warteresiewicz (Lit. 38).

This time the Poles had to wait altogether too long for their baggage. Just as they were driving along the newly-built road to Qala Panja-only finished in 1963-to the mouth of the Shachaur Valley, the other expeditions were getting ready to leave for home. Kishmi Khan, originally their main objective, had been climbed. So Wilczkowski was forced to switch plans. He now hoped to climb Shachaur by a lightning thrust. While they were acclimatizing, they therefore concentrated on studying possible routes on Shachaur, but also gave attention to the chances of climbing Kishmi Khan, M-2, Languta and Auar (Auwar).

They considered three possible routes on Shachaur, one of which led by way of the Kotgaz Saddle (Kotgaz An) and the East Ridge to the summit, the other two across the glaciated North Face and then either by the central or the right-hand buttress. Wilczkowski wrote to the compiler about the Kotgaz route as follows: ‘The difficulties along this route began much too soon, at about 4,500 metres, and the vast "skating rink" presented by the icy West Face of the Kotgaz An would have been terribly dangerous if the weather broke.' In such a case, the people on the camps along the nasty-looking summit ridge would be caught like rats in a trap. The right-hand buttress had also to be discarded. They placed two camps on the central buttress, which seemed to offer some possibilities. A lemporary break in the weather as well as the serious illness of one of the party forced them to concentrate all their energies on Kishmi Khan, taking M-2 and Auar in the same operation, the ascent of Languta Barfi, and only then to make a last attempt on Shachaur's central buttress. All went well with this programme. Five camps provided a route up Kishmi Khan. Camp 3 (K 3) was on the 4 Lodz PlateauCamp 5 on the North-East Ridge. From Camp 3 on Kishmi Khan they made their way to the col between it and M-2, where they sited their Assault Camp for the latter part. Auar was climbed by first ascending towards the col of the Hali Kotal. The attack on Languta Barfi was based on the same Base Camp as was pushed forward for the reconnaissance of the Kotgaz route.

The following peaks were climbed:

Koh-i-Kishmi Khan, 7,200 m., Sept. 22, 1963: Tokarski, Mac, Gryczynski and Warteresiewicz. Third ascent by a new route. Fourth ascent, Sept. 25: Gozdecki and Miller.

M-2 (Naser-Khusraw-Cuka), 6,588 m., Sept. 25: Bartczak, Michalski.

Auar, 6,446 m., Oct. 2: Gozdecki, Miller, Mac, Tokarski.

Languta Barfi, close on 7,000 m., Sept. 27: Gryczynski, Warterecsiewicz.

During a final attempt on the central pillar of Shachaur they reached a height of about 6,000 metres before both teams came down from the 700-metre barrier of ice. It was too late in the year. Here, too, if the weather had broken again, the camps sited up the buttress could have been cut off from the Base Camp in the Valley.

The Langar Valley

This valley offers a base for an assault on the Langar peaks, though actually only an outlying subsidiary and the North Summit really belongs to its walls. The rest of them rise from a kind of plateau to the south. It lies in the wedge which separates the Rosh Gol from the Hushko Glacier and pushes out towards the massif of Saraghrar. Eiselin and his Swiss Party were the first to pay attention to the valley. He thought the avalanche-swept north faces of the Langar were too dangerous to venture on.

In 1964 the German Wakhan Expedition led by Dieter von Dobeneck hit the jackpot when it was granted the solitary permit for the Wakhan. Its members were: Karl Brenner, Otto Huber, Konrad Kirch, Peter Mirwald, Hans Romer and Dr. Karl Winkler (Lit. 39). It was difficult to decide between Shachaur and Langar, both still burning problems in the exploration of the Hindu Kush in 1964. In the end Langar won the day. The Germans, too, were shocked by their first sight of the 10,000-foot wall of the massif, but they recognized some possibilities. ‘Two routes were worth consideration; we could try to reach the broad band directly below the summit and thence attempt a traverse to the right, to reach the terrace which lies below the col separating Langar from Languta Barfi. The route would then go up to the col (this did not look difficult) and then along the ridge, in which there are two "steps", to the summit' (Lit. 39, p. 18). However, this route seemed too difficult, both technically and because of its exposure to avalanches. They then ‘studied ' inch by inch a second route, which eventually led to success. A western spur falls to the valley from the 6,170-metre subsidiary summit. They established that its upper part could be climbed and also that a climbable slope led up from the glacier basin at the head of the valley to this ‘possible' sector. On the final assault, they spent a night half-way up the spur, traversing next day from it across a broad, steep and exposed slope of polished ice to the subsidiary summit's North Ridge. Here, to the north-east of the subsidiary summit, they established their vital Camp 2 (c. 5,900 m.), a kind of advanced base for further operations.

On July 5 they traversed the subsidiary and climbed down to a col beyond it. They were now quite close to Langar's northern summit, and the plateau on which the other summits stand stretched away behind it. Dobeneck, Brenner, Kirch and Huber climbed the North Peak (6,750 m.). A blizzard drove them down to a bivouac in a snow-cave, for their packs and tent-sacks had been left down below. Only Huber was fit enough, on July 8, to push forward from the col already mentioned past the North Peak and across the plateau, whose many crevasses were covered with drifted snow, to the Main Summit of the Langar group (7,061 m.). He even traversed to the lower South Summit (c. 6,850 m.). And so the secret of the Langar peaks was solved. Attempts to climb Languta Barfi by a new route came to nothing, but two of its satellites (6,350 and 5,100 m.) were climbed on the way. (For the expedition's other ventures, see below.)

The Valley of Urgend-i-Payan

The First Swiss Hindu Kush Expedition of 1963 under Max Fiselin (with Dr. Simon Burkhardt, Hanspeter Ryf, Alois Strickler and Victor Wyss) (Lit. 40) decided to attack Urgend (7,038 m.) from this valley, since the peak appeared to them to offer no possibilities from the Urgend-i-Bala Valley when they reconnoitred it. (The Poles had already come to the same conclusion the previous year.) They made a successful attempt on Shah (6,550 m.) to the north of the Galati Kotal from a Base Camp at 4,550 metres, with one high camp above it, Burkhardt, Strickler and Wyss reaching the summit on Aug. 26, 1963. Eiselin joined Burkhardt and Strickler in the ascent of Koh-i-Urup (5,650 m.) to the left of the valley on Aug. 30. Base Camp was moved for the assault on Urgend. Two high camp