[Reprinted from an article in Krasny Slovenska, 11/69, pp. 402 to 404; translated from Slovak into German by Mrs. M. Smidova and from German to English by Hugh Merrick].


THE first appearance of Czech climbers in the Hindu Kush was in 1965, when the first Czech Mountaineering and Scientific Expedition, operating in the Wakhan ranges, made 17 first ascents, among them six above the 6,000-metre mark. A second Czech expedition visited the eastern Hindu Kush in 1967 and climbed the main summit of Tirich Mir by a new route, as well as achiev¬ing six first ascents of other ‘seven-thousanders’.1

Now, an eight-man party from Bratislava was paying another visit to the eastern Hindu Kush, its objectives being to make a thorough reconnaissance of the Lower Tirich glacier and to climb a ‘seven-thousander' in the area, having abandoned the original intention of climbing Tirich Mir's East summit (7,692 m.).

After disposing of the many invariable problems, we finally left Bratislava on 19 May 1969 punctually at 11 a.m. bound for Salzburg in our specially fitted out grey and white Tatra 138 lorry, laden with 2,100 kg. At Salzburg we collected our boots, which had come from Munich, and then continued our journey through Jugoslavia to Bulgaria.

At 5 p.m. on 21 May we crossed the Turkish frontier, where we ran into our first snag. We had to pay 300 dollars for our transit, another 20 for passing through the country with an open and unsealed bonnet, and 20 more for the sealing of crates and drums already sealed before leaving home. It took us the whole journey to Istanbul to get over this frontier shock to our nervous systems!

On the 22nd we drove on, by way of Ankara and the so-called ‘Nordmagistrale' through Erzerum and Trabson to the Turko- Iranian frontier. Here, the gloomy predictions of our experienced members were in no way fulfilled. All the formalities were in fact swiftly and simply executed, and we were able to continue our way over Iranian territory without delay.

Ahead of us lay 2,160 kilometres, over deserts, the dried-up beds of rivers, through black belts of asphalt, in places of doubtful quality. None of these obstacles defeated our lorry, and by 25 May we were already at Tehran, in the heart" of Persia. There we enjoyed a rest day, mainly in the interests of our lorry, while we explored the city. We then drove on along the Caspian Sea to the distant Afghan frontier. Once we had crossed it, we felt much happier, for today's Afghan highway is something our motorists at home would have reason to envy. Except for mirages, which are nothing unusual in this part of the world, there is nothing to distract the weary driver.

Arriving on 31 May, we spent two days at Kabul in going through the necessary formalities ; then we were on our way again, this time on our final stage, by way of Jalalabad, the Khyber Pass and Peshawar to Islamabad, where we drew up in front of our Embassy on 3 June.

Our Ambassador, Dr. Vacata, and his first Secretary, Herr Venglar, helped us with the formalities, facilitating our departure into the mountain regions. We explored the possibilities of travel¬ling by air from Peshawar to Chitral; but, although the airline was ready to provide a plane, the price asked was beyond our resources, so the idea came to nothing.

Al 3 p.m. on 10 May we left Islamabad and drove via Nowshera, Swat and Malakand to Dir, where we parked our Tatra in the yard of the police station and continued our journey to the foot of the Lowarai Pass2 in a locally hired lorry. There was, however, still snow on the pass and it would not be ready for motor traffic, they told us, for several weeks.

We wanted to be on our way to the 3,100-metre Lowarai Pass very early on the 12th. The porters and donkey-drivers, however, delayed us. It was 9 a.m. when we started, our baggage being carried by 39 donkeys. As the previous expedition had lost two cases during the passage of the pass, we divided up so that one of us sahibs accompanied each group. We had short-wave trans¬mitters with us, which commanded great respect. And so we reached Ziarat without any further trouble.

We started on our way thence to Chitral in two small trucks. Here, at the bridge before the town, we met with a set-back, for we found it barred to us, so that we had to spend the night there. By 4 a.m. a crowd of natives had collected around us. The garrison commander came to see us, but we failed to come to an understanding with him and the bridge remained closed. In the end the keeper of the keys explained that we should have to unload the whole of our baggage from the trucks and have it carried across to the other side of the bridge. This was the reason why the locals were so interested in us, of course. An hour later we were comfortably bestowed in Chitral's rest-house.


  1. Also spelt Lowari.


Next morning we were received by the Political Agent for Chitral. From him we learned that a British-Pakistani military party were at work in the Barum glacier area, intending to climb Tirich Mir, and Little Tirich which was still unclimbed.3 There was also a Japanese expedition, which had been granted a permit for Tirich Mir, by way of the Tirich glacier ; but he had no further information about its activities.

The important thing for us was to lose no more time, and we set about at once to organize our caravan. Conditions were very bad for us. Whereas in 1967 the hire of a donkey was Rs.37, they were now asking Rs.67. We compromised at 50, though even that meant an uncomfortable drain on our budget. In order to restore the balance to some degree, we unpacked and repacked the whole of our baggage, leaving 16 loads behind at the rest-house.

Our column set out for the mountains on the 15th, 35 pack animals carrying the 1,800 kg. of our baggage. The 42-mile march, which took three days, was for each of us the first endurance test. The first day went off splendidly: there was a relative sufficiency of water and the vegetation provided adequate shade. However, as we laid back the miles, water and shade alike grew scarcer. We suffered from bruises ; the sun and the air dried up every living thing.

At Drasan we parted company with our donkey-drivers, before crossing the 3,800-metre Zani Pass to the village of Shagrom. This we achieved in a day, 59 porters carrying our loads. We spent 24 hours at Shagrom for acclimatization purposes. On the 20th we went up the bed of the Tirich valley on our way to set up a Base Camp. Two days later we reached the point of the confluence of the Upper and Lower glaciers, and there, at 4,080 metres, we established our Base. This was at the spot where two years earlier the second Czech expedition sited its camp too.

Our task on the 23rd was a reconnaissance of the Upper Tirich glacier and its ice-fall, which barred access to the bed of the Lower glacier. We were very satisfied with the results: the ice- fall was snow-covered, so that we would be able to ascend it. On the next day a team consisting of Psofka, Fiala and J. Zofko climbed up into the basin of our reconnoitred glacier and estab-lished our first high camp at 5,000 metres. The second party, Meresh, Shajnoha and Surka, followed on the following day, carrying up the necessary equipment. Meanwhile, the first team had climbed Bajpash Zom (6,700 m.), and re-christened it Bratislava Zom. From its summit they had a superb view.

This extended over the imposing East Tirich massif. Larger or smaller seracs broke away incessantly to race down the 2,500- metre face. The whole valley was filled with their roaring and by the shock waves they generated. Our tents, almost a kilometre from the face, were powdered white with snow from the avalanches. The route to the summit ran up that face and through that chaos. It was far too risky, calling for a specially-prepared and equipped team, which could only rely on porters to the foot of the ice-fall at 4,100 metres. It was a luxury we could not permit ourselves, and we definitely decided to make Istor-o-Nal the main objective instead. So we completed our reconnaissance of the glacier basin and then evacuated our high camp.

On the 27th we began our ascent of one of Istor-o-Nal's summits, 7,3894 metres high. The mountain actually consists of a group of five summits, all of over 7,000 metres. The one we climbed first had already been climbed by the Americans in 1955 and again in 1968 by the Japanese. The route lies over the Upper Tirich glacier, on which we sited our first Advance Camp at 4,750 metres. We climbed up a slaty slope to the lower rim of the rocks and there, on snow, sited our Camp I. Moving on up the southern edge of the glacier, towards the ridge ahead, we estab¬lished Camp II at 6,250 metres. So far there had been no serious difficulties and, with the help of the porters, we were able to stock up the Advance Camp and Camp I very satisfactorily. On one occasion the porters even carried to 6,050 metres, close under the saddle. From Camp II the route led on over a small rocky face on to a sharp, heavily-iced ridge ; Here Meresh and Psotka pitched Camp III at 6,900 metres.

Finally, on 12 July, Psotka and Meresh set out for the summit, which they reached the next day, returning to Camp III for the night.5


  1. The revised height of the main peak is 7,403 metres.
  2. See H.J., Vol. XXIX, 1969, p. 172—according to Dr. A. Diemberger both the present Czech and the Japanese who followed them that year climbed the Rock Pinnacle (c. 7,200 m.)—ED.


Meanwhile a considerable traffic jam had built up down at the Base Camp. On 2 July the seven-man Japanese expedition, whose objectives were Tirich Mir and East Tirich, arrived in the valley with their 200 porters. They tried to reach the ridge by way of the Lower Tirich glacier and wanted to attack the summit from there ; but after a week they came down the ice-fall again and proceeded along the Czech route to Tirich Mir.

On the 14th a second Japanese party, with Istor-o-Nal as its objective, put in an appearance, immediately followed by a Spanish expedition with the same target in view.6

On 15 July our second team, Fiala and Zatko, moved up to our Camp III, whence they reached the summit on the following day.

The Japanese were hard on our heels, having established an Advance Camp and busying themselves with a Camp I. We gradually struck our tents, a furious gale disposing of Camps II and III for us. As it was raging on the actual day of our second party's successful climb, its members were forced to come all the way down to Base Camp in a single stage.

On 17 July we were all happily reunited. We packed up, said good-bye to those glorious, snow-plastered giant peaks and to our neighbours. Then we set out on the long journey home.

⇑ Top