An exhibition in the Hindu Kush combines the delight of high mountain, the loveliness of the journey and exploration. That huge massif which stretches over nearly 1,000 km. can be divided into three parts—the occidental part is 5,143 m. high at Koh-e-Baba. The central Hindu Kush with its highest part in the Koh-e-Bandakor (6,600 m.) and which presents considerable interest for mountaineering but is rather well known nowadays. The best part for the alpinist is the high Hindu Kush which groups most of the seven-thousanders and numerous six-thousanders— its culminating point is Tirich Mir (7,706 m.) ascended in 1950 by the Norwegians from the valley of Chitral in Pakistan. We are not going to refer to that area of the high Hindu Kush attainable from the south, but only about the less known part—the Wakhan. In fact, Wakhan is the narrow gully which separates the Hindu Kush from the mountains of the Soviet Pamir, but that same term is also used to characterize the northern' part of the Hindu Kush attainable from Afghanistan.
In the whole of the Hindu Kush, the Wakhan is the part which has remained the least known up to now. The first expedition took place only in 1960. The reason why it has been so are simple. Before 1963 the access to the Wakhan was difficult because of the lack of roads. Even now, it depends on the summer season—when the torrents don't cut the track, one can go as far as Quala Panja by jeep and by other vehicles; on the other hand, the permit to go to that region is not delivered every year so that some summers no climbing has been done, as has been the case in 1961 and 1967.
In 1960 a Japanese expedition climbed Noshaq (7 492 m) the second highest summit in Hindu Kush and the highest in Afghanistan—some days later a Polish expedition succeeded in the second ascent of the same summit. The two expeditions began the ascents of the Wakhan mountains and explored the most western part of the massif near its entrance.
In 1962 the second Polish expedition joined by four Frenchmen (Moreau, Ginat, Bruneau and Langevin) explored the valleys of Mandaras and of Urgen-Bala, climbing Koh-e-Tez (6,800 m.) and Koh-e-Mandaras (6,600 m.).
The year 1963 is one of the most important in the discovery of these mountains. Six expeditions were given the permit to get to them, and for the first time, a group of alpinists penetrated far to the east, towards the plateau of Pamir. After having explored the different valleys, among which was the valley of Lunkho, the Italians climbed Baba-Tangi (6,513 m.). However, it is once more in the region of Noshaq that the main activity of alpinists could be seen. Two Austrian expeditions, one directed by Dr. Gruber and the other by Pilz, ascended the western crest and went over the ridge to Noshaq, thus realizing the third ascent of that summit. The same year a third Austrian expedition climbed Kishmi-Khan (6,700 m.) twice.
The same summer the third Polish expedition succeeded in the first ascent of Languta-e-Barfi and the third and fourth of Kishmi- Khan after a rather elaborate attempt on the northern spur of Shakhaur (7,000 m.). That attempt foreshadowed the advent of the 6 Sporting era' in the Wakhan. To complete the year 1963, let us mention a Swiss expedition led by Eiselin. Over and above the seven-thousander Urgen, that expedition climbed Shash-Dhar (6,550 m.) and Urup (5,650 m.). At the end of 1963 the occidental part of Wakhan was well explored, but a lot of things had to be done further to the east. There numerous summits, often difficult, but not reaching more than 7,000 m. rose along over a hundred kilometres losing height gradually as it approached the plateau of Pamir—the crossroads where the Hindu Kush meets the Pamirs, the Tien-shan and the Kara- korams. If the present political situation remains unchanged these frontier massifs will, no doubt, remain difficult of access to the alpinists for a long time.
In 1964 a German expedition directed by Von Dobeneck climbed the 7,000 m. high Langar. Then because of the persistent bad weather—which is likely to be rather rare on a massif not subject to the monsoon—undertook the longest penetration to the east ever realized up to that time by alpinists—as far as the Chinese frontier. Their account, thrilling from the exploration and adventure standpoint, contains precious details about those mountains of Asia which are still very little known.
The following year an important Czech expedition climbed seventeen summits in the Ishmurgh valley at the foot of Lunkho.
It left untouched the main problem of that part, but revealed the existence of beautiful mountains with huge and very steep face which can be compared to the north face of the Grandes Jorasses, but twice as high and reaching to about 7,000 m.
The weather was still rather bad and it prevented the Czechs from their great realizations in this area.
In 1966 again, only one expedition obtained permit to get to the Wakhan, for only the first twenty kilometres of the valley. It's in that way that the fourth Polish expedition, joined by a Belgian, J. Bourgeois, and two French, my wife and myself, succeeded in the ascent of Noshaq (7,492 m.) by the Austrians' route and different virgin summits of no great importance such as the Sad-Istragh (5,800 m.), M. 10 (6,000 m.), Chap Zom (5,400 m.)... During an attempt on a seven-thousander, Barban Zom near Noshaq, Potocki disappears in an avalanche. Bourgeois and Heinrich succeed in returning to the main camp after a week of superhuman efforts and thanks to much luck.
Before 1968, the discovery of the Wakhan developed fairly well in the occidental part, the central and eastern valleys, in spite of some incursions, kept their problems unresolved. All the ambitions were directed in fact towards the Lunkho region and it is in this region that five out of the six expeditions of 1968 were made. The sixth one, a group of Frenchmen led by L. Dubost, climbed Koh-e-Lakhsh (5,786 m.) at the entrance of Wakhan from its northern spur.
Going on to the east we find in the Yamit valley an Italo- Polish expedition which is said to have climbed the western ramparts of Lunkho and different summits of less importance in this valley as well as some in Khandud.
In the Khandud valley two expeditions-an Austrian and a Yugoslavian-succeeded together on the same day the ascent of Lunkho-e-Dosare (6,868 m.); a few days later, on 13 August the Austrians succeeded in climbing the central tongue of Lunkho- e-Hawar (6,872 m.). They also made the first ascents of the summits of Wala No. 321 (6,450 m.) and No. 353 (6,434 m.), as well as the second ascent of Koh-e-Hevad (6,849 m.) and with the Yugoslavians the second ascent of the Koh-e-Myani (5,632 m.). In the Ishmurgh valley where a Czech expedition went in 1965, a Scottish expedition, directed by Ian Rowe, climbed the northern spur of Lunkho-e-Hawar, but did not reach the top and had to stop 100 to 200 metres lower. During that difficult climbing, Alan North lost his left foot toes. More to the east we find in the Quala Panja valley, our expedition. The 1968 year has then been very important in the discovery and conquest of the central part of the Wakhan mountains, namely all the summits around Lunkho. Thus as far as Quala Panja all the valleys are known. Most of the summits have been reached. More to the east, however, all the summits are virgin, except for Baba-Tangi.
In 1969 seven groups went to the Wakhan. An American team (Hechtel) and an Austrian (Axt) went to Noshaq. A French group (Dabos) climbed Kishmi-Khan by opening a new route by its south-west pillar, while a Franco-Swiss group (Dittert) went to the region of Mandaras and climbed some five- thousanders. Isabelle and I went back for the third time to the Wakhan with a team from Lyon. We climbed the northern pillar of Shakhaur. A Japanese group went to the Pegish valley, and a French group to the Quala Panja valley to try Koh-e-Wakhan, the first ascent of which has been realized on the same date from the Pakistani side by Helga and Rudolph Lindner.1
Some summits are still waiting for lovers of beautiful problems. Lunkho-e-Hawar (6,872 m.) presents a wall 1,000-2,000 m. high and which stretches over several kilometres to the east as far as the Uparisina and to the west as far as the Lunkho-e-Dosare. More to the east, the Quala-e-Ust (6,300 m.)2 is virgin. The seven-thousanders have often been climbed only by a single route—walls of over 2,000 m. are not rare-around Shakhaur they reach 3,000 m. Beautiful granite pillars which remind you of the southern aspects of Mont Blanc but rise to 6,000-7,000 m. here and there. Let us mention for instance those we have seen on the Sad-Istragh, the Koh-e-Setara, the Saraghrar...
Notes on Summit Identification by Dr. A. Diemberger
Rahezom Zom North = Koh-e-Wakhan
In 1968 Henry and Isabella Agresti also reconnoitred Koh-e- Wakhan, the imposing summit in the south-east corner of the east glacier of the valley of Quala Panja. For this purpose they climbed two summits beside Col. Est (5,650 m.).
Southwards from Koh-e-Wakhan, and separated by a Col, towers another high peak which appears to belong to the system of Koh-e-Wakhan. Dr. Gerald Gruber names, in OAZ Fg. 1365,
these two peaks Rahezom Zom North and South Height according to Agresti: North peak 6,400 m. South peak 6,636 m. Height according to Gruber: North peak 6,535 m. South peak 6,502 m. (taken from quarter inch and from Wala maps).
In 1969 Helga and Rudolf Lindner attacked both peaks from the south, from Chitral. From the Chi-Gari glacier, that is from south-west, they reached by step cutting, the big Col between the north and south peaks. They named this beautiful and broad Col ‘Silver Saddle’.
From Silver Saddle they scaled first on 4.8.69 the North peak and thereafter on 6.8.69 the South peak. They found that the South peak was higher than the North peak. The altitude meter showed a difference of approx 120 m. It would have been purposeful—and H. Agresti and G. Gruber would have agreed to it—to give the name Koh-e-Wakhan to the North peak. It lies on the border ridge between Wakhan and Chitral and is accessible from Wakhan. The name Rahezom Zom could be for the South peak which exists totally independent of the North peak It is pushed towards Chitral. Provisional height approx: Koh- e-Wakhan above 6,400 m., Rahezom Zom about 6,550 m The Lindners found no sign of any previous climbing on the North peak. On the peak edge one could only ride. Clear peak photos show, in the east Ouala Wust, above 6,300 m„ and Baba-Tangi above 6,500 m.
An Alpine Magazine reported a scaling of Koh-e-Wakhan from the north side on 2.8.69. That is, two days before the scaling of the Lindner team. Now the problem has been cleared. On 2.8.69 a French team came from north side up to the cornices below the summit of Koh-e-Wakhan, but could not reach the summit.
Further notes on the article by Henri Agresti in the Himalayan Journal, Vol. XXIX, 1969, by Dr. A. Diemberger.
The credit to Henry Agresti regarding the opening up of the Ouala Panja Valley cannot be sufficiently stressed. A few more remarks on the article on pp. 65 and 66, and on the ridge sketch.