OK, so the climbing's great, but our expedition recipe is a cautionary tale for those contemplating the delights of Asian bureaucracy…
Step 1. Take three fresh Englishmen and a well-matured token Kiwi, sprinkle lightly with sponsorship cash and send to Islamabad.
Step 2. Upon arrival, add 15 portions of dehydrated sweet and sour pork that contravene Islamic Law and combine with an unnecessarily officious customs man to make a huge complicated mixture of curried nonsense and bureaucracy.
Step 3. Ferment this cocktail for 5 days, whilst fiercely heating one of the climbers until he is ready to explode. Enlist the help of the Post Master General of Pakistan and add several half-baked import regulations to thicken the plot. Finally, remove all logic and common sense, as they have no place in this dish.
Step 4. Cover the whole sorry mess in a blanket of rancid pollution and simmer at 40 degrees in the shade for an indeterminate period of time, until all four climbers are completely browned off, then serve on a bed of red tape.
It wasn't all bad news though - Adam Thomas reports (in a vaguely sensible fashion for once)…
In July and August of 2000 a team of four funded by the Mount Everest Foundation and the British Mountaineering Council visited the little explored Hindu Raj in North West Pakistan. Adam Thomas, Phil Amos and Simon Woods from the UK and Jock Jeffery from New Zealand departed on 3 July from Chitral to the road head at Zhupo. From there it was just a day's walk in to the Matkesh/Ochiri valley.
Base camp was set up at 3530m at the convergence of the two valleys and a short period of acclimatisation and reconnaissance followed. It soon transpired that the most feasible option was up the Ochiri glacier, the Matkesh being deemed unsuitable due to objective dangers on the final approaches to the mountains. All four climbers reached an advanced base at 4300m at the head of the Ochiri glacier on 10 July. From here the route seemed quite straightforward to a peak that was estimated to be about 6000m.
The following day a route was found up the upper glacier to Camp 1 at 4800m, but the weather began to deteriorate at this stage. The continuation of the route was up the same glacier and Camp 2 was sited at 5300m in a large bergshrund. The weather worsened and all four were forced to descend to base camp to sit out the poor weather.
Another attempt was stopped at Camp 2 due to the return of storms and the subsequent wait in base camp lasted over a week, during which time there was widespread flooding in the valleys.
On 27 July the team climbed to advanced base once more with the promise of good weather. They progressed smoothly up to Camp 2 in two days and were ready for a summit attempt. On 30 July they set out at 1am up the final steep headwall. Relatively straightforward snow and ice led to a small rock band with Woods and Jeffery electing to traverse left around it and Thomas and Amos climbing straight through. Amos dislodged a large boulder, which struck Thomas on the shoulder, luckily not inflicting too much damage. This brought them out onto the summit ridge. The ridge saw them progress quite easily to the summit, which they reached at 8am. Descent was by the same route and they reached base camp the following day.
This was almost certainly the first ascent of the mountain shown on the maps as 5995m (our GPS broadly confirmed this with a reading of 6010m). The team named it Uddin Zom after the goatherd with whom they shared base camp.
Woods and Jeffery then departed to join another expedition, while Thomas and Amos returned to the Ochiri glacier for further reconnaissance. They identified a good objective, but with the injury to Thomas' shoulder and the prospect of a tricky descent they decided to attempt an alternative route near to Uddin Zom. Unfortunately this was thwarted by poor weather and with the deadline for their return looming, they cut the trip short by two days.
It was felt there would be some scope for further exploration of the valley and also the surrounding area. All mountains are in the 5900 - 6000m region and so are perfect for small, self-funding groups. There is still plenty to explore and many unclimbed mountains left in the Hindu Raj.
If you are interested in visiting this region and would like to read the full expedition report, it is available for download here (23kb zip file).
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