Hitotsubashi University Mountaineering Club Hindu Kush Expedition, 1967


Hitotsubashi University Mountaineering Club had been planning an expedition to the Karakoram for a long time, which could not be realized in practice because of the difficulty in obtaining permission from the Government of Pakistan.

In May of 1967, however, after strenuous efforts we happened to get the permission for Hindu Kush, instead of Karakoram. The permission for Hindu Kush allowed us to climb Saraghrar south peak (c. 7,300 m.) and some other peaks south of it. The reason why we selected Saraghrar south peak was because of the restriction imposed by the Defence Ministry that prohibited us going near the frontier line, and also because it was one of the virgin peaks over 7,000 m. left in the Hindu Kush. It was an attractive prospect for us to make an attempt to reach one of the two tops of Saraghrar from the south side which no one had ever done before.

There are four possible ways to climb Saraghrar: First, from the Niroghi glacier following the north ridge, just as the Italian party in 1959 which ascended Saraghrar north peak for the first time had done. Second, from the Niroghi glacier climbing to the east ridge at the col between Saraghrar and Sucai Zom5 and tracing a long way on the east ridge to the top. Third, from the North Cwm in Rosh Gol glacier, same as the route taken by the Oxford University party in 1958, and which had failed to ascend it because of an accident in the North Cwm. Fourth, from the southern valley which is a branch valley of Rosh Gol, climbing the south face directly to the south peak. We decided initially on the fourth alternative and prepared to go into Rosh Gol Valley.

We formed an eight-member team consisting of six graduates, a student of Hitotsubashi University and a doctor. Our leader Ken-ichiro Yamamoto and doctor Yozo Suzuki were the two elder members and acted as our guardians. The four young men, Yukitoshi Satoh, Hirosada Hara, Hisanao Sato, Akhihiro Ikechi, who had graduated from school a year before, were the climbing force of our party. Yukihisa Miyatake, the only student, was the youngest, and I took on the role as the manager between the elders and the youngsters.

On June 20, we, eight members, were all in Rawalpindi with equipment and food weighing over 3 tons. Next day, we met our two liaison officers, Captain Malik Mohamed Ashraf and Captain Muneeb Ur Raman Farooqie. The Defence Ministry explained to us that they decided to despatch two captains because they wanted to train the necessary personnel for liaison officers of foreign expeditions which were expected to increase in number in the near future.

We had brought with us equipment for only one liaison officer, and so we had to persuade one of them to be content with the equipment for a high-altitude porter.

On June 24, Hara and myself flew to Chitral with all the luggage on board a chartered plane of Pakistan International Airlines. Considering the expense and labour, and especially the time required to carry them by ordinary cargo, we chose to hire a Fokker-27 plane for about Rs.3,000. In consequence, it was a good choice, and we arrived at Chitral Airport two hours after the take-off from Chaklala Airport at Rawalpindi. Other members came to Chitral by the regular flight through Peshawar next day. All of us were full of spirit and energy at the Chitral rest-house, and made preparations for the march-in to the mountain two days hence.

On June 27, we left Chitral for the mountain with 56 donkeys and three horses. We travelled along the Chitral River for three days up to Kuragh, and then went up the valley of Richi-Trikho to Drasan in one day's march. At Drasan, we hired 131 porters to cross over the high pass, Sarth An (3,930 m.), and down to the bottom of Tirich Gol. We paid each of them Rs.8 for one day's march with about 30-kg. load. On July 2, we went across the pass, arrived at Zundramgram which lies just at the entrance of the valley of Rosh Gol. Next day, we hired porters from Zundramgram and some from Drasan, entered the Rosh Gol Valley and reached the grove of Dru from where the snout of Rosh Gol glacier could be seen some distance ahead. (We had to pay Rs.10 per porter in Rosh Gol.)

From Dru, we had intended to enter into the unknown branch valley at the south side of Saraghrar but, judging from the observation from Sarth An, the south face of Saraghrar seemed it) be so steep and difficult that we changed our mind and went up Rosh Gol glacier to the west side of Saraghrar. On July 4, we followed up the abrasion valley of Rosh Gol glacier to a flat place called Totiras Nok and set up Base Camp. The height of the place was about 4,300 m. We noticed that it was the same place where the Oxford University party had their Base Camp in 1958.

When we arrived at that wide place covered with stones, there remained snow here and there but, by the time we left after finishing the climb, the place was full of grass and flowers with clean water torrent running through it. It was a beautiful and cozy place just ideal for a climbing base and to spend two months there.

On July 5, we began a series of reconnaissances in the North Cwm glacier which is one of the branches of the Rosh Gol glacier, extending to the north ridge of Saraghrar. The entrance to the North Cwm was a very narrow one, situated between the lofty rock wall on both sides, and in the centre of which was a threatening ice-fall covering the whole width. Soon, we could find a route round the left corner of the ice-fall through the complex glacier surface up to the upper snow cwm. Upon that snow-field, we found the innermost part of the cwm surrounded by the steep rock wall in a semicircular-like amphitheatre. After carefully examining the possible route, we decided to try the left wall following some of the many couloirs which run diagonally up to the top ridge.

On July 8, we built Camp I (4,800 m.) at the entrance of the North Cwm glacier and, on the 10th, Camp II (5,100 m.) on the upper snow-field.

On July 12, Satoh, Hara and Ikechi started for Camp II up the couloir in the rock wall at 5.30 a.m. Before then, they had already reconnoitred the snow slope up to the bottom of the rock wall, they could easily hurry along in their steps in the snow to the place where they had reached before. At 9 a.m. they started to climb the couloir, after roping up.

It happened at the second rope pitch in the couloir. Suddenly a stone came falling with a screaming hum and the next moment, Ikechi's cry of pain surprised the other two who were climbing ahead. He squatted down holding his left thigh. The stone had broken his bone! Immediately, Satoh and Hara carried him down with rope to the terrace under the rock shelter, and then Satoh rushed down to report the accident to the others, while Hara set the splint to his thigh with ice pitons and took care of him until the others came up to rescue him.

During the following three days, all of us devoted our energy to the hard work of carrying him down from the dangerous slope to Base Camp. We faced much difficult situations in order to take him down without hurting his broken leg but, anyway, after a lot of trouble we finally got him down to Base.

In a tent at the Base Camp, Doctor Suzuki performed an operation to fix the fractured leg with plaster. After three days, Ikechi was sent back to Japan carried by porters on the stretcher made by an aluminium ladder. Captain Ashraf and Miyatake accompanied him to Karachi, where they sent him off to Japan, and came back again to Base Camp on August 12.

After Ikechi left the Base Camp, none of us wanted to try the North Cwm again. Instead, we decided to climb other mountains around the Rosh Gol glacier, because there remained no other possible route except that of the North Cwm on this west side of Saraghrar.

There is an easy saddle in the centre of the ridge which divides Rosh Gol glacier and Atrak glacier. To the right continuation of the saddle, there stood three peaks of Udren Zom, and to the left, a beautiful snow peak covered with ice flutingsā€”a sharp Andean peak. (We named it Nohbaisnom Zom). We decided to climb one of them, and began the reconnaissance of that area from the day Ikechi left.

On that day, Hara, Satoh and I climbed up to the col, the height of which is about 5,300 m. (afterwards we named it Udren An). The glacier falling down from Udren An is called the Nohbaisnom glacier by the map of Pakistan Survey which the liaison officer had brought. Almost half of the glacier was covered with the moraine, and it was easy to climb it except at a place where there was water falling down on the bare ice and rock wall.

Over the loose slope above the fall, we stood on the col. With a gentle breeze from the opposite side, a new landscape spread before us to the south. It gave us a fresh and deep impression to stand on the col where no one had ever come. Both sides of the ridge were cut by steep rock walls, but there were some ways to overcome them. Just in front of Udren An, over the long stream of the Atrak glacier, the massive Noshaq range was seen in picturesque harmony.

We made up our minds to make an attempt to climb Nohbaisnom Zom along the ridge from the col, where we were going to build Camp I. After two days' laborious work to carry up the necessary food and gear, four of us, Hara, Sato, Satoh and myself, occupied Camp I on July 23. Two high-altitude porters, Wiloyat and Dalbesh, whom we had hired at Zundramgram, helped us to carry the loads to Camp I, but the maximum weight they could bear on the snow was about 25 kg.

Next day, I started from Camp I with Satoh for a reconnaissance on the ridge. The south side of Udren An was interrupted by a huge rock wall about 1,000 m. high, and a long ridge stretched westward from above the rock wall down to the Atrak glacier. We decided to climb this west ridge and traverse the steep snow slope to the Atrak side. After three hours' traverse, we climbed up a giant snow slope, the whole surface of which was covered with penitent snow. Then we stood at the edge of the west ridge from where the ridge abruptly falls down to the glacier basin.







We climbed on the west ridge back to the main ridge, narrow and covered with the penitent snow with unstable cornice overhanging to the south side. It was dangerous to follow on the arete because of the soft and easily collapsible penitent snow. But there was no other way; we trudged up the ridge to the shoulder of the main ridge. There, we could look over the true top of Nohbaisnom for the first time in the far distance. It was a long way to the top but, anyway, it seemed to be accessible through the ridge. We turned back from there and returned to Camp I after dark. It was a laborious day fighting with the deep penitent snow.

After a day's rest, we were about to start from Camp I early in the morning when an avalanche occurred crossing the traverse route which we were about to pass through. The huge hanging ice block above the snow slope collapsed down to the snow basin just under the col. Half an hour earlier and we would have been struck down by the hard ice blocks.

That stopped us from pitching the tent on the west ridge, and we tried to find another safe way. Sato and I went down the glacier which was flowing down to the Atrak Valley from Udren An, whereas another two, Satoh and Hara, took the ridge to the north, that is to Udren Zom, to find out the route to another peak.

Sato and I took a steep ice-couloir up to the far edge of the west ridge from the glacier basin just above the point where the ice-fall flows down to the Atrak glacier. This couloir route was a long, roundabout and laborious one which required the fixing of rope for about 1,000 m. but, at least, it was safe. We decided to take this way to the west ridge and, on July 28, we pitched Camp II (5,600 m.) at the middle point of the ridge.

The next two days, we made efforts to follow the arete to the top, but the foodstuff were not enough and a spell of bad weather seemed to begin, we changed our plan and got down to Base Camp to fetch up food and take a rest.

On August 3 four of us, Satoh, Sato, Hara and myself, came back to Camp II. Next day, we started for the top at 5.30 a.m. There was not a cloud in the sky. Following our previous tracks on the arete, we approached to the main ridge.

There are three peaks on the main ridge. The farthest one is the highest peak (6,600 m.), and the nearest one, to which this west ridge stretches, is the second highest peak (c. 6,000 m.). Between them there lies a little but steep peak (c. 5,600 m.), which we could not circumvent and would therefore have to go over.

When we arrived at the top of the nearest peak from the west ridge, the sun rose from the far western part of Saraghrar. From there, there was the long ridge to descend and, after that, another long ridge to ascend up to the summit. We trudged along the main ridge covered with the penitent snow which softened more and more as the sun rose higher. The middle peak was guarded by the ice and rock walls, so it took much time and toil to overcome it. It was already afternoon when we began to ascend the third peak. It was a wide snow slope easier than before but, by the time we stepped on the ridge, we found it heavy going because of accumulated fatigue and the height

After a monotonous climb along the ridge, we at last reached the summit at 4.40 p.m. The highest point was covered with a big cornice on the Rosh Gol side ; on the other side were the exposed scattered stones of the Atrak. Many magnificent peaks stood all around us with a clear silhouette catching the red western sunlight. Saraghar, Shakhaur, Udren Zom, Koh-i-Mandaras, Noshaq, Istor-o-Nal, Tirich Mir were surrounding us in a 360° panorama.

We descended from the top after half an hour, getting down to the col between the middle peak and the summit, bivouacked at a little terrace under a rock. Next morning with a clear sky, we followed back the trail on the ridge and came back to Camp II at 3 p.m. safely but entirely tired out.

When we returned to Camp I, we were in high spirits for another go at Udren Zom without rest. Before then, we had seen from the Rosh Gol glacier that there were three peaks on the highest ridge of Udren Zom. The north and highest one (7,131 m.) was climbed before from the north side, but the central and south peaks which were about 100 m. lower than the north peak were still unclimbed. The south peak was accessible from Udren An through the south ridge but, as mentioned before, this ridge was interrupted by the steep slope guarded by a rock buttress. We were doubtful to overcome this buttress at first, but in consequence of a reconnaissance we found it possible to climb through a long couloir on the left side.

We were perfectly acclimatized, and were going to finish the ascent at a stroke this time. On August 8, we pitched Camp II at the foot of the rock buttress, and next day, Satoh and Hara traced a route through the couloir up to the summit ridge. On the 10th, the four of us occupied Camp III on a small terrace on the knife-edged ridge at a height of 6,300 m.

August 11 came with a cloudless sky, and we started from Camp III at 6 a.m. After passing over a little peak on the ridge, we faced a steep step covered with penitent snow and headed by a cornice. This time, however, we could overcome it by using the jagged surface of the penitent as footholds. The cornice could be avoided by passing through the left corner.

Climbing over the step, we looked out over the whole aspect of the summit ridge along which we were about to go. A gentle arete of snow for some distance, and the steep rock ridge approaching the snow-covered summit were clearly seen over there. Another two peaks of Udren Zom formed a line separated by a distance of about 1 km. from each other, behind the south peak (c. 7,000 m.).

We went up along the arete, and then proceeded traversing the left side of the ridge. The climb was much easier than the one we experienced on Nohbaisnom Zom, but the snow was so hard that we had to cut steps one by one. We mainly selected rock which stood like piled big stones.

At 1.30 p.m., we reached the top. We had been surrounded by mist gushing out from Rosh Gol Valley for some time, and we could not enjoy the wide view from the summit. We only saw the central peak covered with rock through the white veil of mist.

After staying at the summit for about one hour, we descended the ridge in perfect contentment. It was happy climbing.

When all of us (except Ikechi) gathered again at Base Camp, we had two weeks left before returning home. We were going to try another attempt at one of the peaks around there, but two weeks seemed to be too short to try Saraghrar again. Anyway, for another plan, we decided to change the place of the Base Camp to the grove of Dru on August 18. We called 50 porters from Zundramgram, 30 of whom we sent off to Zundram- gram with luggages we no longer needed, the remaining 20 were to be used to carry up the 10 days' food and equipment to the edge of the glacier from where we would try another climb.

After some observation from the south edge of Rosh Gol Valley, a possible route was unexpectedly found in the southern valley of Saraghrar. There was a hidden branch in that valley which we could not see from Sarth An or any other place. A steep ridge dividing the valley in two parts at the centre of the south face of Saraghrar gave us a direct and short way to the top of the south peak. We found a route from the hidden valley to reach the centre ridge.

On August 19, we built the Advance Base Camp on the moraine of the hidden valley helped by the 20 porters and, then, pitched a four-man tent at a little below the centre ridge (Camp I, height of 5,600 m.), after climbing the ice-fall and a long steep slope of ice.

We could see a snow ridge stretching far up to the sky, and it seemed to be a clear way to the top. On August 22, we climbed the centre ridge, pitched Camp II on a rock terrace at a height of 6,300 m. Satoh and Hara left there for the next day's attack to the summit.

On August 23, they started from Camp II early in the morning and trudged up the steep face of ice. After some hard work, step-cutting for about 10 hours, they arrived at a rock terrace which was the only flat place they could find. They were tired out and, thinking that they would not be able to reach the top before dark, decided to spend a night at the place (7,100 m.).

Next morning, after a few hours' climb, they at last reached the summit. A strong wind was blowing on the top ridge, but over the north peak they could see many peaks of the northern Hindu Kush under a clear sky.

Thus, we succeeded to accomplish our first aim, with no accident this time. Our success owed much to our highly acclimatized body condition and the good weather with good snow condition in late summer.

We came back to Base Camp at Dru safe and sound on August 25, and left Rosh Gol Valley on the 27th. On August 30, we returned to Chitral.

⇑ Top