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Noshaq 7492m Expedition Account

by Jamie McGuinness for High Magazine

2006: Medhi Amidi climbed it from Afghanistan, see the second section!

2009: Mountain Unity are assisting an Afghan team climb Noshaq and set up tourism there.

June-July 2000

"Want to climb Afghanistan's highest mountain?" Martin didn't phrase it quite like that, but after a couple of hours of discussion, that is what it amounted to. It was to be the first attempt from the Pakistan side, for it straddles the border, indeed the first attempt on the mountain since 1978, and of course everyone's suspicions were raised - why hadn't it been attempted previously? Surely there must be a catch? Nope, it simply seems that nobody had thought of it. From the photos the route looked straightforward enough, to where it joined the first and second ascent routes high on the border ridge, and from there it was assumed to be reasonably straightforward.

It turned out that the photos were revealing for what they didn't show, and like most expeditions there were several obstacles and difficulties to be discussed and overcome, both physical and personal, before we were truly climbing. The thin medial moraine between two rather spectacular and unstable icefalls plus the 200m of rope we fixed that was exposed to rockfall forced a healthy debate on safety early on, then Karl Farkas (UK), an experienced high altitude climber and KE leader was taken out by an unshakable chest infection and Sam Palsmeier (USA), a keen trekker and budding high altitude climber found that high altitude troubled him, and indeed he had had a close call on Denali just prior.

 

Still, from Babu camp (Base Camp: 4740m) we established ABC (4975m) then past the icefalls and fixed rope the scree slog was broken by a bivvy at 5295m and finally Camp 1 was placed on a good ridge beside a heavily crevassed glacier at 5845m. It was here that Murray MacPherson, Canadian, and Martin, Danish, both trekker-scramblers discovered why I was cynical of the expedition's motto 'We're here to have fun.' In my experience most first timers camping around 6000m think more in terms of survival, although after 5 nights the fun had returned, only to be re-extinguished at Camp 2 at 6425m where our ridge met the main border ridge. Here we lost another of our nine lives. We had camped in the lee of a huge serac out of the way of the small bits of overhanging stuff but at 4am the ice shook. Was it the glacier subsiding? No, there was too much movement-a large earthquake struck and even as the shaking subsided the serac above continued to squeak ominously. In the morning there were two long new cracks and a huge chunk that would have flattened us and the tent was ready to fall. We hurriedly moved the tent and it fell a day later. Apparently the area is on a major fault line and mountain shakers are common.

We climbed up the ridge above C2 to meet the first ascent route and, similar to between C1 and C2, even close to the rock there were more hidden crevasses than can easily be imagined. This was nasty unsoloable terrain, and although it changed to safer mixed snow and rock with an option after of a steep broad snow gully or more snow and rock, the foreshortened view and the thought of carrying a camp to an even more unpleasant altitude put Martin and Murray off. It was time for retreat, they decided, and with tail between their legs and less consistent weather, not even an attempt of the straightforward next door Aspi-Safed 6507m(?) was considered. We stripped the camps and began the slow process of returning to Rawalpindi.

Back at Babu Camp the ridge certainly looked a better angle although a larger team would probably fix some rope, competent pairs could easily tackle it alpine style in reasonable conditions. There was another appealing line, and that was the central ridge that leads directly to the East 7400m summit then quickly to the main summit, but this spur is truncated and only readily accessible by crossing a large bowl then a steep-sided (ie abseiling/ascending on fixed ropes) minor valley from our Camp 1. One could avoid the dodgy icefalls and fixed rope by taking a significantly longer route to our Camp 1. Apparently the easiest route on the mountain is the West ridge which is very committing to access from the Babu Camp side, not to mention rather illegal. The northern side of the mountain is in Pakistan but we found out nothing other than the trek in is more challenging. Whatever, a new route or two on the Hindu Kush's second highest mountain is waiting.

Jamie McGuinness

Noshaq from Afghanistan

By Medhi Amidi, 15 August-15 November 2006
Sunland Tour and Travel agency, Mashhad, Iran (sunlandtour at Yahoo.com)

... we traveled to Afghanistan and finally could climb the Noshaq peak (7492m) from Ghazi Deh glacier route in Alpine style on 30 August, 2006.

Noshaq peak is really simple from Ghazi Deh glacier route and with complete security because the residents of Afghanistan Pamir are like the people of Hunza in Pakistan and they are really hospitable and their religion is Esmaili (Ishmaeli) too.

We can arrange this climb from the Tajikistan route, the Ghazi Deh village in Afghanistan for being sure about Afghanistan security. Indeed we have many special programs which will be performed in Afghanistan Pamir soon. By the way if you are interested in them we can also send them for you.

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