Friday, 4 November 2011

Maybe, just maybe, we will have some luck.

The following day, with the sun shining, we had a relaxing day recce-ing a route through the moraine and looking for a good route up the glacier and beyond. We had picked out the central mountain as the easiest technically to climb. With the weather still good the next morning we packed up the camp and negotiated our way up the moraine onto the glacier. The terrain then became difficult as we painstakingly found our way around huge crevasses and across snow bridges. The weather had now turned overcast and as we were making our way through the final steep section when it began to snow. At 5000 m we pitched our high camp and retreated to the tent out of the deteriorating weather.

Base Camp

Big crevasses

That night I went down with something and felt rubbish the next day. We thought we'd do a recce of the upper section of the glacier and we set out but I was not feeling great so we returned to the tent. It didn't matter as the clouds soon closed in. The following day I felt better but the weather was threatening so we were confined to the tent for yet another day. Our supplies were now running low; we were now stretching three days of food to four in the hope that the weather would improve.

Terrible weather at High Camp

Unfortunately the next day the weather was the worst yet. It was blizzarding outside but we needed to retreat back to base camp so had to brave the weather. As we picked our way back through the crevasses and down the moraine the snow turned to sleet and then rain. We were thoroughly soaked by the time we reached base camp. Sitting in a wet tent with everything around us damp we reflected on the weather. Being September it was late in the season for mountaineering, was it that winter had  already arrived? Yet another wave of incredible frustration came over me. It seemed like we were not having any luck with this mountaineering lark.

The following day the storm had cleared the weather and we set about trying to dry everything. We also needed to rest as the effort of getting up to the high camp and then having to retreat, together with the bug I had picked up, had drained us of energy. 

The weather remained good as we prepared to head back up to high camp again. We reestablished this camp and as the weather was still great the following morning headed out for our summit attempt. The route up the glacier was fairly straight forward and certainly easier regarding crevasses than the lower sections. It lead us towards the col which denoted the border with Pakistan. We tried to climb the rocky ridge on the border but the rock turned out to be a chossy outcrop which required some delicate moves to traversed out of it. This took us onto bullet hard ice, an initial salvation in the form of two solid ice screws which formed a belay so that James could safely climb out of the choss but then meant some teetering across an awkwardly angled slope on our front points before we managed to access easier going terrain on the northern slopes of the mountain. We followed these slopes for what seemed like forever, passed false summit after false summit until the slopes flattened to form a large plateau which was the summit. The GPS read 5730 m which tallied with the Google Earth research I had done. 

On the summit.

We reached the summit at 1238hrs local time and had stunning views over Pakistan and the Hindu Kush to the South, and to the north the Wakhan and the Pamirs of Tajikistan beyond and over the Oxus River. We spent some time savouring the moment of making a first ascent. On our return we took care to avoid the chossy ridge and got back to the high camp 4 pm. A 12 hour day, not a long summit day but long enough for us.

 Descending. Looking towards Pakistan.

With plenty of food still left, and having learnt from running short on our previous excursion, we decided to stay at the high camp to see if we could make an ascent of an adjacent peak. That night, however, James got struck down with 'The Bug', except worse. The following day I knew that, with James ill, we wouldn't be making any more ascents. We retreated to base camp where James proceeded to be very ill. Luckily the weather was good as we waited for the donkey men to return to help us get our gear back down the valley.

The day before we were meant to meet the donkey men was James's birthday and we had planned a lie in before attempting to organise the gear for packing. So it was with great surprise that we woke up to the sound of voices. It was our donkey men. We rolled out of our sleeping bags and shook ourselves awake. James was feeling much better although had noticeably lost weight, he was pleased to be heading down the valley a day early. 

Retracing the steps we had taken 2 weeks earlier, our mountain gradually disappeared from view as the Ravens flew overhead, threatening a repeat poo strike. And as for a name well there was one that came to mind, Koh-e-Zaghcheh, meaning Raven Peak.

The peak climbed - see comments below as to why it wasn't a first ascent

1 comment:

  1. Once back in the UK I found an article had been published online since we had been away. It was an article about a 1972 Italian expedition to the Jurm valley. I was aware of this expedition and had a brief report which mainly detailed summitting peaks in the 5200 m to 5500 m range. However, the article published online for the Himalayan Journal showed pictures of the peaks which they climbed. There is no doubt that the peak named Kohe Sauze (Blue Peak) is the one we climbed and therefore rendering our ascent a Second ascent. The article can be found here

    note the height of the mountain is quoted as 5510 m. The Himalayan Journal also chronicles a second Italian expedition to the Jurm valley the following year in 1973 and the article can be found here

    This was the first I'd heard about a 1973 expedition.

    Lindsay Griffin wrote an article about our expedition on the British Mountaineering Council website here