2011: An upcoming expedition for July this year

North side of Koh-e-Baba-Tangi

2010 New Zealand Women’s Mountaineering Expedition
to the Wakhan Corridor,
Afghanistan

Patricia Deavoll and Christine Byrch

To make the first ascent of the North West Ridge of Koh-e-Baba-Tangi (6516m) in the Wakhan Corridor
Hindu Kush Range,Northern Afghanistan

Objective:
Koh-e-Baba Tangi is in the upper Kezget Valley, at the far end of the Wakhan Corridor and is considered by many mountaineers to be the most fascinating peak in the Afghan Hindu Kush. It was first climbed by an Italian team via the West Ridge. There are accounts of this expedition in:

• The American Alpine Club Journal 1964. pp 324-235
• The British AC Journal No. 308 May 1964.

Pat and Christine wish to make the second ascent of the mountain via the unclimbed North West Ridge, which will take them into an area rarely visited by climbers, and which has certainly not had a visit in the last thirty years. If the North West Ridge doesn’t offer a safe climbing option they will make their attempt via either the unclimbed East Ridge, or via the West Ridge (route of the first ascentionists).

Koh-e-Baba-Tangi from Kezget

Members:
Pat Deavoll
Christine Byrch
Pat and Christine are sisters.

Expedition duration:

15th July 2011- 30th August 2011.

Background:

The mountains of Afghanistan’s High Hindu Kush are located in the north east of the country, in the long finger of land known as the Wakhan Corridor, which separates Pakistan and Tajikistan. These mountains are gradually being revisited by climbers, who report the area to be remote, safe and worlds apart from the on-going war with the Taliban. Peaks in the Wakhan Corridor were hugely popular in the 1960’s and 70’s, particularly among European climbers who would often reach the area overland via the “hippy trail.” They were enticed by generally easier access than found in other parts of the Himalaya/ Karakoram, more stable weather and the ability to climb without the constraints of a restrictive permit system. But after the coup d’etat in 1978 and the Soviet Invasion in 1979 the climbing became strictly off-limits and remained so for
almost 30 years.
However in 2003 Carlo Alberto Pinelli, an Italian mountaineer who in the 1960’s climbed extensively in the area (and was one of the first ascentionists of Koh-e-Baba Tangi) organised an expedition he called the Oxuz: Mountains for Peace, with the objective of climbing Noshaq (7492m), Afghanistan’s highest mountain. He wanted to let the Afghan’s know they had not been forgotten by the climbers who had benefited from their generous hospitality. The successful expedition effectively marked the beginning of a new era of climbing in the region. Over the past five years a steadily increasing number of expeditions have, once again, enjoyed the superb climbing in the Afghan Hindu Kush.

Distinctive aims and objectives of the expedition:
• For two sisters from New Zealand to make the first ascent of the North West Ridge of Koh-e-Baba Tangi (6516m) in the Wahkan Corridor of the Hindu Kush Range of Afghanistan (second ascent of mountain)
• To showcase this neglected but fascinating region to other climbers worldwide and to determine its renewed safety as a mountaineering destination.
• To show solidarity towards the people of the Wakhan Corridor by supporting their economy, which has suffered over the past three decades with the demise of tourism.
• To showcase the abilities of strong female mountaineers in a male-dominant sport. Koh-e-Baba Tangi from Kezget
• To run an environmentally sound and socially conscientious expedition.
• To make a short amateur documentary on the expedition to be gifted to Wakhan Tourism for the promotion of future tourism in the area. We are hoping that a film of two western women travelling and climbing in Afghanistan will be of use to the organisation.
• To produce feature articles for leading outdoor publication on the expedition with the intention of promoting: a) the Afghan Hindu Kush as an area to climb, and b) the abilities of strong female mountaineers.

Intended route on Koh-e-Baba-Tangi



Description of North West Ridge Route from Guide Book (Peaks of Silver and Jade)

“The ascent of the Nth/Nth/West Spur…seems to be particularly attractive. It is a varied and hard route, but probably not to dangerous, alternating stretched of rock, mixed terrain and ice. Nothing is known about the bergschrund. A rock promontory protrudes from the glacier followed by an almost vertical ice dip. On top of it the slopes are less steep but then they straighten up once more along a small rocky ridge. From here a long crossing to the right could be attempted towards a large well visible ramp that takes you near the Western Ridge… It looks like and easy route. However it is partially exposed to the possible collapse of an overhanging barrier of seracs.
Above the little rocky ridge you proceed to your left on a second ridge until you land on a small snow plateau. The plateau ends at a spur of mixed terrain. Once you have negotiated this spur, you are soon on the summit.”

Detailed itinerary/schedule:

• Day 1: Arrive in Kabul
• Day 2: Shopping for food and equipment.
• Day 3: Fly to Faizabad.
• Day 4-5-6: Organisation with Wakhan Tourism and Mountain Unity.
• Day 7: Drive to village of Ishakashum .
• Day 9: Drive to Kandud
• Day 10: Drive to Kezget.
• Day 12-13: Trek to Basecamp (with expedition staff and porters/horses)
• Day 14-32: Acclimatization and climbing of Koh-e-Baba Tangi (6516m)
• Day 32-33: Trek to Kezget.
• Day 34-35: Drive to Ishakasum
• Day 36-40: Site seeing and liaison with Mountain Unity and Wakhan Tourism.
• Day 41: Flight to Kabul.
• Day 42: Leave Kabul for New Zealand

Why Pat and Christine think they will be successful:

Pat and Christine are two highly accomplished mountaineers; between them they have over fifty years of climbing experience. Pat has been on ten expeditions to Asia in the past nine years, all to climb mountains between 6000m and 7000m in height. Three of these (2007, 2008, 2009) have been to Afghanistan’s close neighbour, Pakistan, thus she is very aware of the risks of traveling in a Muslim country during periods of political unrest. Christine has also travelled extensively in Pakistan; therefore both women know how to conduct themselves as western women in an Islamic culture.
As a mountaineering partnership they climb well together, due mainly to the fact they are sisters and have known each other for ever! They are both extremely fit, despite their age. They have chosen Koh-e-Baba Tangi because it is a mountain of moderate height (6516m) and looks to be technically within their capabilities, but also, due to its position at the far end of the Wahkan Corridor, because it offers an exciting adventure just in reaching its base.
Both are confident they can summit Koh-e-Baba Tangi, if not by the North West Ridge, then via the East or West Ridge options.

Aerial photo of the Wakhan Corridor