/ Expedition to climb 10 highest peaks in Afganistan

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dominicbarone on 20 Dec 2012 - [zen-inetgw-3a.nhs.uk]
I want to set up an expedition to climb the 10 highest peaks in Afghanistan the peaks will be (listed in height order not in the order they will be climbed);

1 Noshaq, 7,482m
2 Kôh-e Bandakâ, 6,812m
3 Kûh-e Bandaka, 6,812m
4 Kôh-e Tûlôksâ, 6,435m
5 Pîr Yakhhâ-ye Darah Sakhî, 6,414m
6 Sakar Sar, 6,271m
7 Qal‘ah-ye Sorkhî, 6,171m
8 Kôh-e Mçnjân, 6,130m
9 Kôh-e Sar-e Tund, 6,001m
10 Kûh-e Yazhmi, 5,989m

Well this would be my dream expedition but maybe it would have to be cut back we'll see.

For me Afghanistan is a beautiful country with a vast history and culture, most people don’t even think about it as a country to go and explore for obvious reasons. It has the potential to have a vast amount to offer mountaineers and other outdoor sports enthusiasts. It’s a country that as we all know is war torn but I would like to promote the other side of this country the side that the journalist’s don’t show and show that it’s becoming more accessible. I would like to raise money for some relevant charities even though I haven’t as of yet decided which ones (help for heroes will seems a relevant one and a great cause), I’m open to suggestions though.

This is clearly an idea in its very early stages but I’m looking for anyone that would be interested in setting up a team and helping to organise, logistics and not only mountaineers but support staff as well. I would really like to be able to have some Afghan mountaineers on the team being as we would be in their backyard. No dates or time scale has been arranged just yet, as it’s just an idea that I had but maybe to coincide the expedition with the military operations ending and the troops coming home would be an idea.

If anyone is interested or has any ideas then please message me.

Edradour - on 20 Dec 2012
In reply to dominicbarone:
> For me Afghanistan is a beautiful country with a vast history and culture, most people don’t even think about it as a country to go and explore for obvious reasons. It has the potential to have a vast amount to offer mountaineers and other outdoor sports enthusiasts. It’s a country that as we all know is war torn but I would like to promote the other side of this country the side that the journalist’s don’t show and show that it’s becoming more accessible.

Have you been? Are you basing this on anything more than idealism?
Dave 88 - on 20 Dec 2012
In reply to dominicbarone:

While Help For Heroes is a fantastic charity, I'm not sure it ties in with you trying to show the "other" side of the country, for obvious reasons.

Similarly, tying your exped to the troop withdrawal date is not gonna do much to draw focus onto the "other" side Afghan. Furthermore, the withdrawal date is not a 'victory' date, it's just a date whereby we expect active combat patrolls so cease. After this date it will still be a very poor and dangerous country in places and it will still be full of coalition forces. There's still NATO troops in Bosnia ffs. Also, to try and time your exped with the withdrawal is risky, as the date could easily change, and you could find your insurers, flights, in-country contacts etc etc, backing out on you as areas will still be classes as 'war zones'.

As for this exped being some sort of fund raising/awareness campaign, I'm also sceptical. Go and climb because you want to, not for any other reason. If you really want to raise money for local causes, you're better off just sending them your exped budget and staying at home. Not saying you shouldn't go on expeds, but they are rarely good opportunities for genuine charity work, and it's easier to accept that from the start.

Sorry to be a bit of a downer, I know your idea is in it's early stages but a lot of it seems a bit idealistic. I think there are some people on here who have done expeds to the area (try a thread search, might throw something up), and hopefully they'll be along to give you some first hand knowledge.

All the best mate.
drunken monkey - on 20 Dec 2012
In reply to dominicbarone: Good luck with this. I was in Afghanistan this summer and saw some tremendous looking mountains. The potential is amazing. However, I think its could be a logistical and security nightmare to be honest. And having Help for Heroes as one of your charities might not get the locals on side. I'd maybe look at charities that provide for the Afghans. Good luck anyway, I'd love to go back. Its an amazing country that has been totally ruined by decades of conflict and greed.
glaramara - on 21 Dec 2012
In reply to dominicbarone: Bit more positive than the other guys, check out: www.thebmc.co.uk/british-ascent-of-afghanistans-highest. Looks like getting the british army involved would be the right way to go about it. Would be cool to get a soldier and an afghan on a summit but wouldn't have the foggiest how to do it. Does seem a very ambitious scheme though :o
seankenny - on 21 Dec 2012
In reply to dominicbarone:

I'm afraid I agree with the "less positive" posters above.

Help for Heroes does wonderful work but it's about rehabilitating soldiers. Great for them, but not sure it will do much for your average Afghan who is living in a mud hut in a crappy suburb of Kabul and working as a day labourer. I really do agree with the poster above - if you want to help the Afghans, give the couple of grand you'd spend on the trip straight to a charity that works out there.

As for the side of Afghanistan that journalists don't show, I'm sure that as you're interested in the country you'll have been reading dispatches from the country from papers like the Guardian, the Economist or the New York Times. They often tend to go beyond the facile stuff we see on the 10 o'Clock News.

Bear in mind that sorting out an expedition even in a relatively well-travelled part of the Himalaya like India or Pakistan is fraught with difficulty. Add onto that the problems particular to Afghanistan. It's much, much, much poorer. There's hardly any infrastructure in the provinces. No tradition of hiring porters. Don't forget the security situation - it's been declining in the north, as I understand, and analysts suspect it will get worse as the foreign troops pull out. Do you really want to go on a trip where you could be robbed at gunpoint or worse?

Of course if you really want to go to Afghanistan don't let me stop you, it's a wonderful place. Even if you "just" went trekking, say in the Wakhan Corridor, you'd have the experience of a lifetime.

Anyhow I'm sure ice solo will come along in a bit and give you some more informed advice...
Bruce Hooker - on 21 Dec 2012
In reply to dominicbarone:

I think you've missed out a few peaks there, although sometimes the names used vary. I went there in 1970, to Nuristan, which involved driving up to Barge Matel, after following the Kunar then the Bashgul river. As you say the place was fantastic but alas this side of the Hindu Kush has seen some of the worst fighting for decades now and from what I've read is still very dangerous for outsiders. When I went there were no arms, no problems at all, except the poverty of the people, but even that was less visible than in the South.

Apart from climbing mountains we climbed over the watershed to the Panschir Valley, which at the time had no road and no burnt out tanks, was quite beautiful, but I think you really have to do a lot of research about security, and also about logistics - doing the 10 highest peaks would seem very ambitious, they are not all together so you would need to hire donkeys or porters to get around. As for hiring people to carry loads, we had no problems with this, it took a bit of negotiation and loads of cigarettes as bakshish, but today I imagine prices will be higher.

Lastly, I would question the wisdom of going just after the withdrawal of foreign troops, today, personally, I doubt that it is very wise to go there - in the high mountains and the passes and valleys you have to take do you think the thousands of anti-personnel mines have been cleared? - but to go when the occupying forces have left and the country is likely to be locked in a power battle sounds somewhat more than courageous, nearer suicidal I could be wrong though. It's a pity as it has the potential of being a superb granite climbing area, with stable weather and blues skies for weeks on end. Here's a link to see a few photos, maps and wet your appetite:

Big Lee - on 21 Dec 2012
In reply to Bruce Hooker:

I would second that. Nuristan would be a rediculous place to visit on a climbing expedition. It's one of the least secure in Afghanistan. It doesn't make the news because there is very little foreign presence there. I'm not even sure that officials would allow you there for climbing. Even if Kabul officials allowed it, the local road blocks may turn you back. The Afghan government has little control in provinces such as Nuristan meaning the only way to agree any kind of 'permit' to climb would be to try to sit down with a local elder and discuss over a lot of cups of tea. They may just say no. Pretty much all climbing that I have heard of in recent times has focused on Badakhshan and the Wakhan Corridor.

Also, how are you planning to deal with landmine presence? The Soviets did not record where mines were placed and they were widely distributed right up to the highest passes in remote areas. Landmine clearance has focused on populated areas. Are you sure you want to visit areas and peaks that have not visited by climbers since the 1970s? The Wakhan area was largely spared of landmines, which is why it is little issue there. There is a UN online document on the general distribution of linemines around the country if you can find it.
ice.solo - on 21 Dec 2012
In reply to dominicbarone:

i will help organize and staff it. i have spent a bit of time in the country, around some of the areas you will need to go into, and have a good network. i cant do the charity element, but the exped stuff im set up for.


i can tell you right now it will cost a lot, will take a lot of time with a lot of bureaucracy, insurance will be expensive, there will be a lot of 'second payments', you will need to have your political views squared, the visas and permits will be 2/3 of the process - and if youre planning on doing this as a single exped, you will be away for a very long time. 6 months in afghanistan is tough, youre looking at more than that.

lets assume you want just half the list: theres no way you will have it together by this spring (the starting time you will need). so that makes it 2014 spring.
have you got the resources and staying power to cover it? this is not a trip up the khumbu.
it will be complex enough without attaching to anything to do with foreign soldiers going home. the people you will be relying on will not share your views on that - they have their own concerns.

there wont be a problem with porters, but afghan climbers you can count on one hand. projects to develop that exist at the 'we need harnesses' stage.
it will make sense to bring in some HAPs from pakistan, but that wont be easy either. any foreigners involved will be better entering thru tajikistan. check flight itineraries to dushanbe.

you will need an array of translators, guides, liasons and protection in some places. they have their own heirachy, and you can expect to be employing a lot of people. not all of them will work for $1 a day, 10 years of foreign interaction has skewed what things cost, translators with security clearance know they can get $75 a day in kabul. over the time needed even for a single peak this will add up.

contact me if you want further details, but be prepared to talk money before we talk climbing. getting up the mountains will be the easy part
Damo on 21 Dec 2012
In reply to dominicbarone:

Your list is odd, I'm not sure where you got it but doesn't indicate sufficient research on your part for something like this.

A more meaningful list might be something like http://peaklist.org/WWlists/ultras/afghan.html but you could at least check the list at the back of Pinelli & Predan's 'Peaks of Silver and Jade' - which bears no resemblance to your list of '10 highest'.

Entering via Tajikistan is fine, but note that this year climbers doing this got temporarily stuck in Afghanistan when an incident flared up in Tjk and the border was closed.

If you have no charity or 'cause' in mind and are 'undecided' and looking to tack one on to a climbing holiday, then maybe you aren't sufficiently committed to such a 'cause' risk your life for it. This applies to all expeditions, not just your 'dream'.
Bruce Hooker - on 21 Dec 2012
In reply to ice.solo:

> but be prepared to talk money before we talk climbing.

Our entire budget for a 3 month round trip, buying the Austin K9, all food, fuel etc for 7 of us with just over 6 weeks in Nuristan was just over £1000! Those were the days, and half the mountains were still unclimbed!

In 1970 though.
ice.solo - on 21 Dec 2012
In reply to Bruce Hooker:

there is nothing in that statement i am not jealous of.

JdotP - on 25 Dec 2012
In reply to Bruce Hooker:

Thankyou very much for sharing that with us, looks awesome!
Nigel Modern on 30 Dec 2012
In reply to dominicbarone: If Greg Mortenson is still working in that area his might be the charity to support

L.A. on 30 Dec 2012
In reply to Nigel Modern: Or perhaps read the criticisms and allegations about his organisation first before deciding ?
L.A. on 30 Dec 2012
Apologies for hijacking the thread with this but I get slightly pissed off by the status given to that book. Theres an excellent article by the Guardian about the allegations against Mortenson

and by Jon Krakauer in his book Three Cups of Deceit

Sadly the Co Author of Three Cups of Tea, David Relin, committed suicide earlier this month

End of Hijack !

dgp - on 30 Dec 2012
In reply to Bruce Hooker: Your posting brought back very fond memories of a Bangor Uni mountaineering expedition also in the early 70's. Agree absolutely with your wise comments !
Nigel Modern on 02 Jan 2013
In reply to L.A.: Thank you for that...no problems with hijacks giving good information. 'Tis the season of debunking myths: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joyce_Hatto

SeasonalDrip on 19 Jan 2013
In reply to dominicbarone:

Don't know if you've already seen it but might be worth taking a look at the Afghan ski challenge that mammut sponsored a while back. If I remember right they were trying to promote skiing as a means of tourism in a particular area though educating the local population in hopes they could run ski hire shops/guiding etc. (I may be totally off the mark here its a while since I read up about it, apologies if I am).

If your genuine about raising awareness/helping the country etc perhaps a similar scheme for mountaineering may be possible? It would be great to see something like that work, as it does for Sherpas and porters/guides etc. In the greater ranges. I'm not sure how feasible it would be with the current situation though. I do, however, remember reading an article possibly in trek and mountain about someone going mountaineering there so its definately possible.

I'm personally not a fan of big challenges for charity, as someone else said its better to just give the exped money instead also help for heroes, although a great charity, would probably not be the best idea for helping the Afghan people. But if its something to promote local growth like the ski challenge it would likely have a bigger lasting impact. Whatever you decide to do though, very best of luck to you would be interested to hear how you get on.
Bruce Hooker - on 19 Jan 2013
In reply to dgp:

I think I we read your expedition report at the time.. Were you the ones who took a trailer but unloaded it and heaved it up on top of the K9 for the Channel crossing to save money? That always impressed me! Did you take the central route though Afghanistan as well? We tried to read all we could at the time although the initial idea came from "A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush" by Eric Newby.

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