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EXPLORATION AND ASCENTS IN THE BUNI ZOM GROUP, 1971
ROBERT WAGNER and ALBERT WACHTEN
We planned the Kolner Hindu Kush Expedition 1971 on the assumption that sensational discoveries and explorations m large areas of the Hindu Kush could hardly be a target for expeditions in the ‘seventies’ any more. Besides, for a group of nine climbers, all of amateur status, a too ambitious aim could spell disaster.
For this reason we decided on a range which is somewhat away from the spectacular seven-thousanders of the Hindu Kush and had not been explored much; the Buni Zom group in Chitral, south of Buni and Awi, on the Mastuj river. From expedition results in the years 1957, 1965 and 1967, 6 Section Graz ‘, under the leadership of Dr. Gruber, had worked at sub-dividing the whole Buni Zom group. In 1970 a work was published in which Dr. Gruber differentiates between the North Buni Zom group, situated between Mastuj valley and the Phargam Gol, with the Khorabohrt, Gordoghan and Phargam glaciers and the South Buni Zom group, south and south-west of Phargam Gol, with the mountain areas around the Rizhun, Sohnyoan, Golen, Rinzho, Shiak, Shachiokuh, Isporili, etc., glaciers. C The Buni Zom Group in Chitral’-O.A.Z., Vol. 1370; reprinted in #./., Vol. XXX, 1970).
Since our team of nine-eight men and one woman-constituted a rather large group, we decided on a double expedition, i.e. division into two groups ; George Holtmann, Herbert Hoven, Christoph Meizka and Albert Wachten were to attempt through a steep climb the difficult-to-reach Phargam glacier and into the untrodden basin to investigate and climb the virgin Awi Zom, the second highest summit of the whole of Buni Zom group; Heinz Dieter Bohme, Anno Diemar, Manfred Heintz, Erika and Robert Wagner had the task to get a clear picture of the Sohnyoan glacier which had been reached for the first time in 1970 by two Japanese groups. Thus we planned to investigate the glaciers which debauched into the Phargam Gol and which had hardly been given any attention so far.
Both groups started from the Phargam Gol with its ideal situation for a Base Camp which was established at 3,987 m. on high ground of the valley at Kulakmali. In order to investigate the approach routes to the Buni Zom group, as also to ease the problem of porters, we set out in separate groups for the Base Camp. The possibility that the Base Camp would be unreachable by one route was also eliminated, and besides the ever- changing composition of the groups helped to overcome and lessen the usual strain of the expedition members.
In three mini buses we set out over the route which is to some extent also used by tourists ; through Istanbul, Ankara, Tehran, Kabul, Peshawar and on 4 August we reached Chakdara. Here we parted-one group went in its own conveyance over Saidu to Kalam in the Swat valley; the other group went to Dir and from there on to Chitral by jeeps.
The difficulties which the ‘Chitral group’ expected with the authorities did not occur. After a 70 mile jeep ride through the Mastuj valley up to Miragram, they quickly reached the Base Camp at Kulakmali with the porters and pack animals through Mastuj, Rahman and Phargam.
The approach route through Kalam took a few days longer. Besides the collapse of a bridge which hampered our provision of petrol and the difficulties with the authorities, the main problem was to find 40 porters for the loads. In the end the porter team consisted of inhabitants from Kalam and Matiltan in equal proportions. There emerged some unhappy strains of competition between these two teams but we were fortunate to commence the eight-day march through the richly vegetated Ushu Gol over the Kachhikhani An (4,766 m.). After a climb up to a height of 4,805 m., immediate east of the pass, the path leads down north through Sor Laspur and Harchin to Kulakmali. Due to worries and shrinkage in our expedition kitty we had to rearrange the porters in Sor Laspur and Rahman.
During the month from mid-August to mid-September our exploration worked out as planned concerning the Sohnyoan and Phargam glacier basins. The settled condition of the glaciers permitted a quick erection of camps in both areas. Each group had the help of two high-altitude porters-Tschapir from Sor Laspur and Seraman from Rahman for the Phargam glacier; Mir Alam from Matiltan (Ushu Gol/ Swat) and Nigaban Shah from Phargam for the Sohnyoan glacier.
While the group ‘Sohnyoan’ began from Kulakmali with the transport of the loads, the other group ‘Phargam’ erected a further Base with the material which had been already deposited there during the approach march.
Besides the rapid glacier stream which descends from the Khorabohrt glacier and which had to be traversed west of the Kulakmali camps, the Sohnyoan group found no difficulties in reaching the Sohnyoan glacier. The glacier which entered the Phargam Gol without any step was reached effortlessly over the western moraine; a steep step between 4,500 m. and 4,650 m. at the foot of the ENE. ridge of the Shupel Zom E. was also easily traversed and thus after ten days all material had been moved from the Base Camp to Camp I (4,700 m.). On account of the huge stone falls along the flanks, the camp was erected in the middle moraine of the glacier.
The aim of activities from Camp I for the next 2/3 weeks was the exploration of the routes to the neighbouring valleys, the Rizhun Gol, the Rinzho Gol and the Golen Gol as also the possibilities of climbing the boundary walls of the Sohnyoan glacier which showed a prominent salient to the west.
For this reason we climbed Pt. 5,625 m. which the Japanese reached in 1970 and which they named ‘Sohnyoan Zom’. Once we did this over the north flank and the SW. ridge and another time over the NE. ridge. The climb up the highly glaciated North wall was interesting and not too difficult. The descent though took up much time due to great amount of stone fall so that we were forced into a bivouac at 5,100 m. The descent over the NE. ridge is recommended.
A wonderful view offered itself from the lower summit west of the 4 Sohnyoan Zom’ which we named 6 Kolon Zom This flat summit gives an uninterrupted view of the Sohnyoan glacier (9 km. long) beyond the place where it turns north-also an interesting view into the Khorabohrt glacier basin.
The result of these climbs showed that the route from the Sohnyoan glacier into Rizhun Gol, either through the north-east pass or the south-west pass, was possible only with the greatest difficulty. The climb of the mighty massif south of the upper Sohnyoan basin seemed possible either over the heavily glaciated north flank or over the rocky ESE. ridge. The last possibility proved objectively too dangerous as we witnessed, after a climb of the pre-summit (Pt. 5,700 m.), the enormous crevasses and dangerous stone falls of the ridge.
Investigations into the upper Sohnyoan basin showed that one could reach the Rinzho Gol without difficulty over a high saddle (Rinzho An, 5,343 m.). On the other hand, a climb of this chain from the west should hardly be considered. There remains the above-mentioned north flank which rises 1,100 m. high from the Sohnyoan glacier towards the eastern corner-stone of the massif which has been shown on the half-inch map of 1954 as Ft. 6,100 m. and which was measured by Gruber from the Khorabohrt glacier as 6,000 m.
An attempt was made on this flank but time was against us i we gave up at the steep pure ice passages at the beginning of the second half of the wall. The route for the most favourable climb in this chain was found but it would require the climb of Pt. 6,100 m. and the traversing of the ridge for which we had, in September, no more time.
Considerable additions could be made to the map of the northern boundary of the upper Sohnyoan glacier, i.e. to the southern slope of Shupel Zom massif. Contrary to the markings in the half-inch map, the glacier-arm goes direct southward between Shupel Zom West and East and only shortly before it enters the Sohnyoan glacier does it bend towards the east. Over this route we reached the 5,650 m. saddle which we named c Shupel An Here we discovered, south of the Shupel Zom E., a summit of 5,810 m. which one ascends by a prominent west ridge. After climbing this we gave it the name ‘ Golen Zom’ and noted that Shupel An from the Sohnyoan glacier as well as from Golen Gol offers an ideal starting point for the three summits of the Shupel Zom group.
We did not attempt to climb the eastern boundary of the lower Sohnyoan glacier since the constant stone fall in the exceedingly broken chain made it appear rather unrewarding. An exception is probably the glacier-arm which descends from Pt. 5,909 m. to Pt. 5,824 m.
The Base Camp of the ‘Phargam’ group is just above Phargam at a height of about 3,300 m. It stands sloping on the moraine in an awkward position. Towards the north one views from here direct into the steep icefalls of the Phargam glacier ; the view and the route to Awi Zom (6,484 m.) are yet hidden. The main object of this group was to find a route into the glacier on which no one as yet had set foot; it would be for our own use or it could be of help to any future expeditions.
After a march on foot for one and a half hours, at a height of about 3,700 m., a great gorge is formed by the mountains which frame the Phargam glacier. The glacier-tongue plunges over a large rock-fall into the depths ; it is impassable as is also the orographic left boundary wall. The only possible ascent is offered by the orographic right rock wall (600 m. height) at the foot of which we erect a provisions depot. The climb now is not difficult; however, one has to be careful about stone falls and we reach the glacier floor at 4,300 m. One hour’s advance on to the glacier and then we erect Camp I at 4,584 m. We now transport provisions and equipment from the Base Camp over the steep step to Camp I. From here we view Awi Zom for the first time.
Two further crevasses present some difficulties (the first is traversed on the orographic right side and the second on the orographic left) and then we are able to erect Camp II at 5,265 m. in close proximity to the mighty SW. wall of Awi Zom hardly a fortnight after arrival at the Base Camp. Now we can start on its climb.
To attempt to climb the deterring SW. wall does not seem advisable and we plan to reach the ridge connecting Awi Zom with Buni Zom so that from there we may attempt the climb over the West ridge.
The only possibility to reach this connecting ridge is over a broad sloping rubble band which traverses at the lower end of the SW. wall and ends in a steep groove which leads on to the ridge. At the mercy of the stone falls we cross this strip-we name this crossing ‘Crossing of the gods’-and we reach the ridge where we erect at 5,889 m. a high-altitude Camp I. This is l he lowest point of the west ridge of Awi Zom. We name the ascending ridge to Buni Zom IV the ‘Fairy Tale Ridge’ Frightful descents on the Awi Zom west ridge towards our high camp frustrate a climb of the ice-giant. However, the ‘Fairy Tale Ridge’ with its average height of 6,000 m. offers a demanding and strenuous traverse. We surmount six humps on it which to date have not been mapped, and which no one has yet climbed ; the most prominent ones quite close to Buni Zom IV we name: k P. Phargam I and P. Phargam II’ (both about 6,000 m.).
We return to Camp II. It appears that the only approach to Awi Zom is the above-mentioned SW. wall. A spur runs through the wall and we think it is possible to erect an intermediate camp on it. We keep towards the right (in the direction of the ascent) and in the late afternoon we start (on account of the lessened danger of stone falls) and with the darkness we reach a well-formed saddle on the spur on which we can erect our bivouac tents. But even this place is not absolutely safe of falling stones. From here ascends obliquely to the west ridge, a furrowed snow-field. Next day we cross this snow-field in the morning and also after sunset and now and then some stones fall from the summit wall but they fortunately do not hit us. At about 6,150 m. we at last reach the secure West ridge. Over snow and over rocks we proceed rather effortlessly and reach on 3 September 1971 at 12.45 p.m. the summit of Awi Zom which had not been climbed previously. We would not recommend our route of ascent!
Our undertaking had extended up to the last days of summer. Already on the morning of our combined departure from Kulak- mali over Phargam An to Chitral it was snowing up to the Base Camp.
We were quite aware that we had not returned with any sensational climbs and explorations. Yet, we knew that our stay and work in the Buni Zom area tallied with what we had set out to do. We do hope that the report of our expedition will be a useful addition to the knowledge of this area.[The authors are unduly modest of their achievement, both in climbing activity and exploration. All this is most valuable information and is complementary to the research of Dr. Gruber and other earlier visitors to the area.-Ed.]
KOLNER HINDUKUSH- FAHRT 1971
Sohnyoan zom (5,625 m.) between sohnyoan an (left) and Rizhun an (right), from Golen zom (5,810 m.)
A Southward view from camp I towards the upper S phntoan glacier. From left to right-Rizhun an (5,250 m.)m Pt. 5,700 m. (6,000 m.) and Pt. 6,080 m.
The shupel zom group as seen from the north ridge of pt. 6,100 m. (6,000 m.)
Westward view from Rinzho an, Into Rinzho gol (The Pts.6,022 m. and 5,177 m. are marked on the map of Dr. Gruber in H.J., Vol. XXX)
The Buni group
Awi Zom (6,484 m.) from the ‘Fairy tale ridge’