VIDEOS: Scottish Wakhan Expedition 2010

by Alan Halewood Oct/2010
This article has been read 7,617 times
Alan on easier ground near the summit of Koh e Iskander, 106 kbAlan on easier ground near the summit of Koh e Iskander
© Alan Halewood

Approaching the summit of the first of the 'donkey's ears' Koh e Khar, 164 kbApproaching the summit of the first of the 'donkey's ears' Koh e Khar
© Alan Halewood
Alan Halewood from Fort William and Neal Gwynne of Glasgow have made first ascents in the Pamir i Wakhanmountain rangeat the eastern end of the Wakhan corridor in Afghanistan, despite heavy monsoon rainfall experienced inneighbouring Pakistan.

The pair plannedtheir fiveweek trip inspired by a simple Japanese map that Alan bought second handfrom aclimbing shop in Glasgow twenty years ago.

Around seventy western travellers(mostlytrekkers but also Suzy Madge's ski mountaineering trip and a largePolishmountaineering expedition) have visited the region this summer butAlan andNeal were the first mountaineers to access the interior of thisparticularmountain range south of the Oxus and west of the Waghjir Valley.

They accessed the region fromTajikistan via the town of Ishkashim. After a day buying suppliesandarranging permits they made the two day trip by 4wd to Sarhad eBoroghil atthe end of the road with their vehicles becoming stuck in recentmudlsidesand deep rivers on more than one occasion. Then, following an eight dayapproachon foot in unusually wet conditions (their pack horses were oftenunloadedand the climbers forced to ferry their own loads up steep muddyslopes),they left their horsemen in the valley to establish a high camp.

Climbinginitially on a narrow 'Cuillin like' ridge they were soon forceddown onto aglacier by some of the loosest rock they have ever had themisfortune toclimb on. From here the pair made their way to a high col and Alancontinuedalone to the summit of Koh e Iskander 5561m (pitch of Scottish IIIon looserock), named both for Alexander the Great whose armies passed nearbyin326bc and Alan's two year-old son Sandy. After a careful descent overavalanche prone slopes the pair returned to their camp after a twelvehour day.

Time lost on the approach meant they had to leave the area almostimmediately, but on the way out they did manage another ascent.Whilstcrossing the Uween e Sar/Garmudee Pass (over 4800m) they took theopportunity to climb onto the ridge forming the north side of thepass. Thegranitodiorite here was more solid and the pair made a long traverseto apair of twin summit towers climbing Koh- e Khar (Peak of the Donkey,5327m,again Scottish III mixed and loose rock) before a 1000m descentstraight tothe valley floor reunited them with their horsemen at nightfall.

Returning to Sarhad e Boroghil the usual roadhead they found thatthe roadswere washed away. The nearest a vehicle could get to them was 80kmaway sothey hired more horses and rode for two long days to reach their4wd.

A local agency called Wakhan Tourism exists to help visitors securepermits,interpreters (some local guides have undergone training with ItalianalpineGuides in recent years) and vehicles.

The security situation east ofIshkashem has remained stable this year with no security threats tothe manywesterners visiting the area. This could, however, mean that nextseason thearea provides a tempting 'soft' target for insurgent or criminalgangs so itis important to get local advice before visiting the area. Alan andNeal metwith nothing but kindness, respect and incredible hospitality ontheir tripthis year.The pair report enormous potential for first ascents at a wide rangeoftechnical difficulty in the area east of Sarhad.

You can watch the whole story of their expedition through the following three videos, documenting not only the climbing, but also their travel adventures.

VIDEOS: Scottish Wakhan Expedition 2010

Photo Gallery - Scottish Wakhan Expedition 2010:

Alan on Koh e Khar, 110 kbAlan on Koh e Khar
© Alan Halewood
Dinner above the Qara Cheelga basin, 147 kbDinner above the Qara Cheelga basin
© Alan Halewood
Koh e Iskander, 92 kbKoh e Iskander
© Alan Halewood
Stuck in the mud, 200 kbStuck in the mud
© Alan Halewood
Neal Gwynne preparing to bribe airport staff in Dushanbe, 141 kbNeal Gwynne preparing to bribe airport staff in Dushanbe
© Alan Halewood
The loose corner leading to the summit of Koh e Khar, 183 kbThe loose corner leading to the summit of Koh e Khar
© Alan Halewood

The expedition was sponsored by MEF, MCofS and Alpkit.

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