AT the beginning of September 1971 the lightly equipped expedition to Iran is on its way back to Italy. The members are talking about what they have seen, what they have done and what they may do later on. The idea of the Jurm expedition came into being during the hot days spent beneath the sun of the Asiatic steppes. As early as the following September and October of this same year, intensive researches were being made to choose the ideal objective. What the organizers were looking for, was a valley there they could find virgin mountains. The main purpose should not be a technical one, that is to find peaks whose conquest would represent a climbing victory; it was, rather, the wish to get in touch with a fresh mountain district different from our own. The "new" that in our country, how- very beautiful may be our valleys, however interesting for climbers of our mountains, no longer exists.
By 1972 we have got in touch with wellknown pioneers of the Hindu Kush, such as Adolf and Kurt Dimberger, but they knew nothing about the Afghan side of that long chain. We were able to get useful information from rock climber members of the 'XXX October Club", who had just come back from a successful expedition to those districts: we spent a lovely evening with them and we got our first map on a scale suitable to our needs: a topographical document of the East Afghan Hindu Kush, patiently drawn by Polish climbers, the best experts on the range. On the same map the Poles had marked, for our friends from Trieste, the most interesting peaks probably still virgin. We chose at once one of the many valleys which seemed yet to be unexplored.
After this decision, we began to work to get the funds, to obtain the permits to enter the Wakhan district, to make a training program and to choose the most suitable equipment. All that was going to give us more trouble than we could have imagined: the permits were going to be held up for several months, the firms we applied to did not always seem willing to help us, equipment was going to be ready only in the last days before we set off. The “food-weight” problem was doubtless one of the hardest in our organizing job. It was solved by Ugo Quintily who did his best in this difficult task. The response to our appeal for funds was not as great as we had dared to hope, but, luckily, it was a different matter with foodstuffs, which we got free from several firms.
Photo Plates 21-24.
Another problem was finding suitable containers for foodstuffs and equipment: for foodstuffs, medicines and other fittings that could be ruined by heat we chose very light isothermal cases; for all the rest we used heavier, but very strong, plastic cases.
Our troubles were not over when, on 6 July, the group left for Rome: on our departure we had been informed that our luggage forwarded previously, had been left by mistake at Teheran. Here it was not possible to have the luggage sent by air because of the weight. In Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, we had our first contacts with the Italian Embassy that was going to be of great help with customs formalities, with permits, with the organisation of the journey by land, etc. It also got us an interpreter, an undergraduate knowing English who proved to be a very good fellow traveller. As the luggage was to arrive on the 12th, we decided that some of us would remain there, while the others would go and choose the camping ground and make reconnaissances.
On 9 July, therefore, four of us with the interpreter left Kabul; together with them left an expedition from Ascoli Piceno which was having similar difficulties to our own.
We set out for the North, passed through Kunduz and stopped at Khanabad. From here roads were not asphalted and we had to drive for 350 Km. among dust and stones, wading streams, along roads sloping towards impetuous rivers streaming down from the Hindu Kush. Besides, at Eaizabad, we met other difficulties in obtaining petrol, food and fruit and because of the police blocks. At this point, we decided to take advantage of the little airport of Faizabad, which operates two weekly flights, and we booked tickets for all the members of the two expeditions for the return journey. We left our friends from Ascoli Piceno at Qadzi Deh at the entrance of the valley through which they were going to reach and climb the difficult and virgin M6; from here we reached Pegish, a little village of shepherds and farmers 2800 metres above sea-level.
We were now in the Valley of Abe Panja, a large sandy valley always vexed by strong continuous winds. It was the night of the 14th: the men of the village approached to offer themselves as porters. They were accustomed to the more and more frequent expeditions and they already knew what foreigners wanted when they come to their desolate country. In spite of our interpreter we could not agree to the rates of pay and we left the village to go and settle our camp at the entrance to the valley of Jurm known by the natives as a very cold and hostile place.
The next morning at seven o'clock the lorry made its way back; the interpreter with the driver had to go to Qadzi Deh to wait for our friends. An hour later the porters from Pegish reached our camp on foot or on horseback, and we succeeded in coming to an arrangement about the rate to be paid: we agreed upon 260 "Afghani" a day and an hour later we were ready to leave for the mountains we still could not see because the entrance to the valley is very narrow and meandering. It was nearly evening when we arrived at a large meadow, 3300 metres above sea-level, where a shepherd family spend the summer with their sheep and goats. We bought a lamb for our dinner; we meant to save our meagre supply of food until there was no alternative.
The next morning when the sun rose and warmed the valley, dyeing it red, we moved for the last leg of the journey. Now we could see our mountains: we became more and more excited. At about noon we began to pitch the first tent and we gave the porters the wages agreed upon: they were to go downhill to meet our friend Lino and Ugo and carry their luggage up to our camp. In the meantime be began to realize the beauty and splendour of our surroundings and the words most frequent in our conversation were "gorgeous, wonderul". All around us there was a sea of mountains from 5300 metres to 6000 metres, with their white peaks untouched by the hand of man, rising towards the intense blue sky typical of high mountain districts; we spent our time making plans and studying the mountains to estimate their difficulties and to find the easiest ways up.
It is the 16th: we are alone in the valley so long dreamed about and whose shape we had tried in vain to picture. The upper slopes are almost unexplored: a huge glacier covered with alluvial deposits and moraines, was the site we settled on for our main camp. From the evening of the 17th to the evening of the 18th, it has been snowing all the time. Our food is nearly gone. On the 19th we were really hungry and we have the last tin of meat with some soup. Our walkie-talkie is always working to send our angry or imploring messages to our friends carrying the cases. At last on the 20th, at eleven o'clock in the morning, we are all together. Our cases have arrived and for a good while we are busy opening them. Very soon everything is all right and we can start our climbing activities. We are going to have extraordinary experiences that will live for ever in our minds and souls. A serene living together, days spent living and working one for another. With us there are Baschir, the interpreter, and Arusbai, a young man, 18 years old: the latter will be a help carrying equipment and with work about the camp, and will be with us on the ascent of Kohe Sauze.
On the 21st, at five in the morning we wake up, but it is snowing. At about seven, the sky clears but there are still occasional falls of snow; at last the weather becomes good and we decide to leave. Vittorio and Paolo Lion leave with Arusbai, carrying only a little food, a tent and other equipment. Ugo, Lino Bortolami, Dede Veronese and Alfredo Dal Santo leave for the nearest peak. It is eleven o'clock and by noon they have reached the difficult part of the climb. At first we climb on rock alone, then on rock and ice. The difficulties do not exceed the four grade and the party enjoys the climb; but after four rope- lengths, the rocks become crumbly and dangerous. So we go round a ridge and up on to a slope composed of scree and snow. Unfortunately it is rather late: the top is 150 metres above us, but to reach it we have to cover a ridge 1 Km in length and we shall not be there before night. We go down back to our camp: two of us are not well either because of the strain at high altitude (we have climbed to 5,250 metres) or because of the days of fasting which had weakened us.
22 July, we rest at the main camp to recover our energies. The weather is wonderful, the sun is warm and we take the opportunity of washing ourselves. At half past one in the afternoon, Vittorio, Paolo and Arusbai come back and inform us that the first virgin peak has been scaled—Kohe Past, (Low Peak). To tell the truth it is a peak 5,400 metres high, and only because of the distance did it seem to be low and it has rock and snow difficulties. We must point out that the names we gave to the peaks are in the Afghan language and that we chose these names together with our interpreter and with Arusbai, according to the characteristics of the peaks. The first peak is called "Past" and it has been climbed by the North and North-West side; they did not encounter serious did not encounter serious difficulties but it was a hard enterprise for the two climbers were out of form from lack of food.
On the 23rd, Lino and Alfredo leave for the upper camp pitched by the first climbers and the porter, among the crevasses. But when they reach the tent, because of the altitude and of the strain of carrying too heavy loads, they have headaches and they feel a general malaise. At half past two they come down and on the stony ground by the main camp they feel well again.
On Monday 24th, Ugo, Vittorio, Dede and Paolo leave early in the morning for a new peak. At half past twelve, they send a message by radio to inform us that they are on the top of Kohe Chard, (the "Four Climber' " peak). They have not met with any remarkable difficulties. They take some photos of the C.A.I, and Italian flags planted at the top and then come down at full speed. We are in seventh heaven: two peaks, though they have no remarkable difficulties, have been reached. At night, all together in one tent, we sing in chorus: it is not perhaps a very good performance from an artistic point of view but the party is very merry.
The following day the four climbers rest at the camp, while Lino and Alfredo leave at three o'clock in the morning for the upper camp. From here, after a long rest, at two o'clock in the afternoon they attack Kohe Sauze, (Blue Peak). Unluckily, after four lengths of a rope on snow and ice, the bad weather forces them to return to the tent in a thick fall of sleet.
Wednesday, 26th: the people at the main camp wake up early. Their sleep has been troubled by the visit of a snow leopard who made the sleepers dream of bright eyes and white fangs. Lino and Alfredo come from the upper camp because they have judged a climb on the fresh snow too dangerous. The weather is always unsettled.
The 27th is, on the contrary, a wonderful day. Vittorio, Ugo and Alfredo leave for Kohe Shal-e-Safid, (the White Cloak Peak). With our binoculars we can see our weary friends at the top of the peak at one o'clock. This ascent has been affected from East to West and it was difficult only at the top because of some frozen snow. Wonderful top, from where you can see the Urgunte Bala Valley, parallel with the Jurm.
On the 28th we rest and recover our strength by eating substantial meals. The weather is getting worse, as usually happens in the afternoon. Lino and Alfredo resolve to leave the following morning to make a third attempt.
Saturdat 29th; at half past three in the morning the two fellows, complaining about the cold as usual, leave for the upper camp. At eight, a message sent by radio informs us that they, are already in the direction of Kohe Dur, (the distant Peak). It is the farthest and the least visible from the main camp. The friends resting there can, nevertheless, follow the two climbers going up to the saddle to the South of the peak. In the meantime the weather gets bad, undoubtedly they are out of luck. When they turn to the North to cover the last ridge to the top, it is snowing and visibility is reduced to few metres; at a quarter past twelve the third peak is reached. The climbers are deeply touched but they have to hurry in taking pictures to come back quickly because the snow is worrying them. On the way down, in fact, they can hardly see their footprints, but at last they are in the tent where we end this happy day sleeping.
Sunday 30th: from the main camp Paolo, Dede, Ugo and Arusbai leave to carry down the upper camp. The following day, contrary to our plans, we are all resting at the camp because of a misunderstanding about the weather.
On August 1st everyday is awakened by the usual departure noise; four climbers are leaving. The party Lino-Paolo is going to attack the most difficult route climbed by the expedition. This route, from North to South-East, is partly on snow and partly on ice covered with soft snow. At the point of real attack the gradient is three or four in ten, but it increases towards the top. To reach it we have to traverse a wonderful snow corniced ridge where the going is made hard by deep snow covering ice. Ata bout twelve, Kohe Stara, (the Star Peak) (5,540 metres) is climbed. We dedicate this stylish and difficult climb to Enzo Giuliano, one of our friends who died in the Dolomites. In the meantime, Vittorio and Alfredo have climbed jurm II (about 5,980 metres) through a route that was extremely hard because of the remarkable gradient and the deep snow. The route, going up from North to South-West, has gradients between 35° and 50°; only once did they need a piton and a rope stirrup made of lighter rope to overcome the upper side of a crevice. From the top, they climbed down towards the North as far as a wide saddle and then up the southern face to the higher peak, Jurm I, (about 6,000 metres) . It has not been the most difficult climb from a technical point of view, but the longest and the most tiring.
2 August: we rest at the main camp and we plan, for the following day, an ascent of Kohe Sauze (the Blue Peak). The weather is wonderful and all of us are going to take part. Unfortunately Vittorio is not well and his place is going to be taken by Arusbai, who clearly shows his happiness.
Thursday 3rd; we wake up at half past two in the morning; after a substantial breakfast we leave at about half past three. At four dawn begins to break while we are walking among the crevasses of the glacier between Kohe Sauze and Kohe Stara. After four hours' walk we attack the East face of Sauze, not difficult but rich in wonderful views of the Valley and of the faces of Stara. At ten Arusbai feels tired and sick. The sun is beating down on the snow and deflects an intense heat. We gave him something to eat and some pills for his headache, and we move letting him take first place on the rope. Difficulties are over and we are not far from the top; Arusbai can manage very well with an ice axe and crampons. When we are near the top he is overcome with enthusiasm and he quickens his step putting Alfredo to a severe test: he often has to make our Afghan friend slow down. At four o'clock Arusbai is at the top (5,510 metres) and is waiting for the others; his happiness can not be described and he shows it clearly with a dance on the snow. He is used to a very hard life, he has always had to fight just to survive in a poor and hostile land, but he understands the meaning of mountaineering. No values idealised and perhaps falsified by a too refined culture but an open soul makes this young man happy in his victory and questions such as "why" and words such as "selfishness" here have no meaning; they are only heavy burdens to climbers who place an importance on words.
We, however, are no less enthusiastic than he; all together we enjoy a two hours' rest in a spot without snow, among the rocks, lying in the warm sun under an intense blue sky high above us. Around us the Kotgaz glacier, the peaks we climbed, the valley of Jurm, the Pakistan and Russian chains: words can not describe all that. We close our eyes to be alone with ourselves and we remain in absolute silence. Our imagination can not go farther for that which surrounds us is too immense and incredible. Time has stopped still while, lying on the rocks, we feel the burning sunbeams on our skin. We are immersed in a perfect warmth that makes our living state perfectly balanced. But it is time to move, time to begin walking again. At three o’clock we are back on our tracks, unwillingly, but full of joy.
On the 4th Vittorio leaves with Baschir, who had shown the wish of climbing again, to attack a new peak. Lino and Ugo are going to work to get the cases ready for our return. Late in the afternoon the two climbers are back at the main camp; another peak, the ninth and last one, has been scaled; it is Kohe Durang (the "Two Colours" peak) (about 5300 metres). At about 4800 metres they encountered a vein of sulphur. They went along the South-west side of the mountain walking on rocks, scree and little snow with few difficulties.
5th August: at three in the morning the weather is bad; at ten it is fine but it is too late to move and vexed though we are to be unable to do anything, we take advantage of the moment by taking pictures of the group.
On the 6th Alfredo and Lino leave for the tenth peak, but, because of the bad weather, they are back at the main camp at half past eight.
We are now on the eve of our departure: our adventure is over, after twenty days spent together in the midst of wild nature. Everything is returning to reality while we are waiting for the porters. We know that they will try to get a payment extra to the fixed compensation, but we will avoid that difficulty by giving them the left over food and equipment.
On the 8th we leave:; the way down is fast, at two in the afternoon we reach the lower valley where the lorry is waiting to take us to Faizabad. The way back is not lacking in misfortune but we arrive in Kabul and we leave by air on the 17th. Flying towards Italy, we look out of the windows of the plane at the last images of Afghanistan.
The "Jurm 72" expedition was fully successful both from a climbing point of view and from the point of view of exploration. It lasted in all 43 days: 24 in the operation zone, which include the days devoted to the approach. From Kabul to Faizabad it is better to travel by air to save time and danger, since the roads are sometimes very bad and to offset the defective organisation of the "Hertz" forwarding agency in Kabul. Besides that, travelling by air is no more expensive than by lorry.
At Faizabad Mr. Omar can easily be found and he is a very punctual driver good at carrying goods and people by light lorries, the best means of transport on those roads.
The cost of the expedition was 3,900,000 lire, 2,900,000 out of the members' own pockets. We had money contributions from: the "Club of Alpino" in Padua, the "Panathlon Club" in Padua, the "Cassa di Risparmio" of Padua and Rovigo and from a member of the "Club Alpino".
The following firms granted us a remarkable discount: "Me-nato Sport" on sport equipment, "Brixia" on heavy boots of the Rusconi type, "Munari" on light boots for the approaching walks, "Scantor" of Milano, "Unipack" of Bologna, "Plasmon", "Zuegg", "Fai" of Milano and "Siapa" of Rome.
In addition we were favoured with foodstaffs from other firms such as "Knorr", "Maschio", "Dietetici moderni", "Nestle", "Chiari" and "Forti".
The members of the expedition were six:
Miss Dede VERONESE
Mr. Paolo LION
Mr. Ugo QUINTILY
Mr. Lino BORTOLAMI, leader
Mr. Vittorio LAZZARINO
Mr. Alfredo DAL SANTO
As regards diet, it fell short of some of the items we are accustomed to such as Italian paste, cheese, salt meat, pickles, salad and vegetables. It was a mistake on our part not to take from Kabul potatoes and cucumbers, which were easy to obtain and which could have been kept for a long time. Mayannaise, lemons, dried fruit would have been useful to vary our daily meals. We were short also of sweets.
At the camp it was very useful to have a very large tent where we could cook and stay all together in the evenings and when the weather was bad. We used gas-stoves and petrol-stoves: the former never gave any trouble while the latter were often out of use because of the not well refined petrol; a necessary thing was a pressure-cooker. About clothes, the altitudes we reached did not require anything more than what is usual on high mountains, except some good equipment for the nights.
The scientific aims (besides the climbing one we have already written about) of our expedition were, first of all, to collect and classify the most representative samples of the flora of the Jurrn Valley. The purpose of this research was to point out eventual analogies and differences between species of flora here in the Jurm Valley and those of our mountains; we were also interested in the adjustment of these species in diffirent ecological environments. The Cartographic Institute in Kabul, with whom we have been in touch, was interested in our researches because maps of the flora of the Hindu Kush valley do not exist and they intend to have some made.
Photo: J. Wala
13. Salang Reigion: Kohe Hafttanor (c. 4,450 m.) North face from S 16
14. High Hindu Kush: Aspe Syah and Aspe Safed from the west (Yakhcale Qadzi Deh.). R1=route of ascent by K. Glazek and K. Piotrowski (10-12.9.71) R2=route of ascent by J. Ferenski (17.9.71)
Photo: J. Wojtusiak 1966)
Photo: J. Wala
15. High Hindu Kush: Darrahe Esan: Rahozon Zom, the 1,800 m. high eastern wall. 398=South Peak (6,535 m.) 300= North Peak (6,502 m.). 400=Pt. 5,810 m.
16. High Hindu Kush: Darrahe Esan: the 1,200 metre high west face of Kohane Gharbi (6,309 m.) (421.1)
Photo: M. Kowaiezyk
17. High Hindu Kush: Yakhcale State Cap: 421.1=Kohane Gharbi (6,309 m). 421.2= Kohane Sarqi (c. 6,300 m.) 421.3=Makhrute Safed (c.5,850 m.)
18. High Hindu Kush: The North West face of Kohe Baba Tangi (478,6,513 m.)
Photo: R. Zawadzki
19. Kohe Zebak Region: Darrahe Kasdarra: View from Peak 119 (c. 4,850 m.) HB=Kohe Nadir Shah (6,814 m.). HB 129=Kohe Mandaras (6,631 m.). KZ 16= Kohe Zard (c. 5,810 m.) KZ 30= Kohe Sangi (c. 5,600 m.) KZ=Sakhe Kalan (c. 5,860 m.) HB 98= Noshaq (7,492 m.). KZ 57= Kohe Sakht (c. 5,780 m.). HB 77= Aspe Safed (6,607 m.). KZ 62=Sad Ishtragh (5,859 m.). HB= High Hindu Kush region. KZ=Kohe zebak region
Photo: R. Zawadzki
20. Kohe zebak: View from Kohe Sangi (KZ 30, c. 5,600 m.) looking beyond Kohe zard (KZ 16, c. 5810 m.) and Gumbaze Yakhi (KZ 19, c.5,800 m.) towards the High Hindu Kush in the background. HB 143=Kohe Khesnikhan (6,745 m.) HB 140= Kohe Naser Khosraw (6,424 m.) HB 168=Kohe Shakhaur (7,116 m.) HB 137=Kohe Nadir Shah (6,814 m.) HB 169=Udren Zom (7,131 m.) HB 129=Kohe Mandaras (M8) (6,631 m.) HB 125=Konj (c. 6,000 m.)
21. Jurm I (6,000 m.)
22. Jurm II (5,980 m.)
23. Kohe Stara (5,540 m.)
24. Kohe Sauz (5,510 m.)
25. Lunkho-e-Kuchek (6,430 m.) Picture taken by a strong tele lens from the base camp
26. Kohe Bakhera (6,270 m.) with its 1,000 m. coloir. Bivouac at the col between the summits
Therefore we collected, dried and catalogued in a herbarium (all this was done at the main camp) more than 50 specimens growing between 2,800 and 5,000 metres: 5,000 metres is the highest altitude where we found plants in the Jurm Valley. We took colour slides (about 90) of the speciments collected because it was not always easy to classify them at the camp. Colour slides were also taken of several woody plants or shrubs with the purpose of outlining better the plant kingdom situation in this valley considering the particular environment at this latitude and longitude.
The equipment for collecting was given to us by Padua University where we are completing the analysis and classification of specimens. Among the most remarkable results already reached is the great difference of altitude where some alpine species live. Plant structure is the same, the only difference (Plant Adjustment) is in'their size. For example, the Grass-of-Parnassus (Parnassia palustris) lives on the Alps between 1,500 and 1,800 metres and here some specimens have been found at 3,600 metres. Some Compositae, Rosaceae, Labiateae, Primulaceae have been found at about 4,300 metres, while the last plant specimen, not yet classified, was found at 5,000 metres not far from the top of the "Two Colours." peak. At 4,250 metres some specimens of cryptogams have been collected.
Of the species collected we have also noted the common name given by the natives of the villages and the therapeutical properties that they attribute to some of them (An infusion of Primulaceae, known an Banafsh, in water should make a lotion good for eyes).
When classification is completed its results will be probably published in collaboration with some professors of Padua University which are interested in the research.
Besides, we also observed the rock type and conformation: we found metamorphic and sedimentary rocks including a remarkable quantity of Pyrites and mica, and rare crystals of quartz. Contrary to other valleys of Hindu Kush here granite does not exit. On one of the peaks we climbed, the Mountains of Two Colours, we found a vein of sulphur and consequently sulphurous water. To climb the nine peaks we explored the whole valley and we could therefore collect the data useful to revise the existing topographic maps (some of the mountains of the Jurm Valley are not marked on the map of Wala because this valley was observed only from its sidelong valleys and from other slopes).