A VISIT TO THE CHIANTAR GLACIER REGION, EASTERN HINDU KUSH, 1967
(‘Translated by E. N. Bowman) [Reprinted from the Alpine Journal]
ON May 25, 1967, our friends, Wolfgang Greimel and Gunter Plotz, left Munich by road for Peshawar, climbing Mount ‘ Ararat (5,165 m.) en route. Peter von Gizycki and I went by air later and we all arrived in Gilgit on July 19 after a wonderful flight close to Nanga Parbat. After a few formalities, von Gizycki and I, accompanied by a high-altitude porter hired in Gilgit, whom we nicknamed ‘Sepp’ were able to start for Yasin the next day by jeep with half our baggage. The others, who had to wait for the rest of it to arrive, took the opportunity to make an excursion to Naltar.
Shimilik (4,928 m.)
Our first climb was Shimilik (4,928 m.), a fine viewpoint which is to the east of Point 5,221 m. on the international atlas and is clearly visible looking west from Yasin, as the only rock peak appearing above the low hills to the north of the Nuz valley. On July 24, von Gizycki and I set off for it via the Nuz valley, further to the west. The best route into this valley was found to be via the water conduit lying on the north side of the valley floor at 2,840 m. This area is arid and cultivation depends on artificial irrigation. We penetrated a short way into the valley and then turned off to the north into a narrow gorge through which flowed a small stream. We ascended rapidly over good rock resembling granite and bivouacked at a height of 4,350 m. Next day we followed a ravine cut deeply into dark schist and containing a residue of snow. After ascending a mixture of scree and snow we finally crossed a little saddle and found ourselves on a sort of hummocky plateau from which towered up for 300 m. the summit pyramid of Shimilik in a series of rocky pinnacles. We were very surprised at this sight for only the top of the mountain can be seen from Yasin, and we had not thought to bring a rope with us.
We climbed the mountain by the south-east ridge and its south face. Although the climbing did not exceed grade 3, considerable care had to be exercised owing to loose scree, patches of snow and some exposed pitches. The rock was sound and the final crack up the summit block afforded very delightful climbing. We finally reached the small summit platform through a small hole.
The mountain would appear to be somewhat lower than the map says since, according to our altimeter, it is only 4,830 m. There is a fine panorama of the mountains of Gilgit. To the south, on the far side of the Nuz valley, the peaks have few glaciers but are very precipitous, to the east are situated the peaks around Asambar (5,798 m.), to the north-east is the Gamugal massif (also called Dhulichish) with summits up to 6,518 m., and behind this extending westwards is the main chain of the Hindu Raj with numerous summits of over 6,000 m., which rise steeply from this side and are not to be recommended. We descended the same way and traversed the hummocky plateau towards the east, eventually striking south through the Shimilik Bar (Bar-valley) and returned to Yasin by way of the water conduit. Here we found Greimel and Plotz with the rest of our baggage and so were able to make plans for the future.
From Yasin to the Geiiantar Glacier
First of all we had to contend with political interference. The officials in Yasin demanded a permit which naturally we did not have. However, with a little guile and much patience we overcame this problem. On August 1 we left Yasin and walked through the Darkot valley to Hundur and on to Darkot itself the next day. The route was easy for porters and pack-animals, and- apart from a few river crossings-quite pleasant. Next day we ascended the Gekushi valley in the direction of the Darkot Pass. The route was not practicable for pack-animals but the track was good. We spent the night close to a hot sulphur spring at 3,700 m. Next morning we followed a well-marked track to the beginning of the moraine, where it abruptly ended. Owing to porter trouble we did not get further than the snout of the small glacier. Away to the south we perceived the stupendous north face of the Gamugal massif, 6,518 m. (called Dhulichish by Longstaff), undoubtedly one of the greatest mountaineering problems in the Hindu Raj. To the west lay Gahkush (or Chikar Zom, 6,110 m.). On the following day we left our bivouac at 4,000 m. and ascended the glacier to the summit of the Darkot Pass (4,575 m.). The lower portion of the glacier was open but so flat that crampons were not necessary. The Darkot Pass is actually a double pass, as the Chikar glacier descends to the north-west from a plateau surrounded by low peaks and the extremely flat and innocuous Zindikharam glacier-which we chose for our descent-falls away to the north-east. We stopped for the night close to the end of the glacier and next day followed tracks to the upper end of the Yarkhun valley as far as the Chiantar glacier, the source of the Yarkhun river. Here we had another row with the porters and were forced to wait a day for fresh porters and pack-animals. To the north we could see the spurs of the High Hindu Kush, here only relatively minor hills, whereas the southern chain of the Hindu Raj gains in height as it progresses in an easterly direction forming the actual demarcation line between north and south (AJ., Vol 73, illus. 16).
Next day the yaks and drivers arrived and accompanied us up the Chiantar glacier for the next three days. En route we made a a deviation up the Garmush valley which contains several still unclimbed 6,000 m. peaks. The Chiantar glacier is generally flat and easy of access, but at 4,200 m. a fairly large zone of crevasses appeared and the drivers and yaks turned back. During the two following days we carried the most important baggage up to a convenient trough in the glacier and established our Base Camp at a height of 4,550 m. It was now August 12, rather later than schedule, and we were apprehensive of a change in the weather which had been very fine.
Chiantar Central Peak (5,291 m.)
While the rest of the party carried the remaining baggage up to Base Camp, Peter von Gizycki on August 13 climbed Point 5,291 m., lying to the south-east of the camp. His route lay up a lateral branch of the glacier to a trough south of the summit and then up to the top via the rotten south ridge. This peak, owing to its dominating position in the upper Chiantar glacier basin, was named Chiantar Central Peak. The summit affords a magnificent panorama of the mountains surrounding the Chiantar glacier. The next day, August 14, Wolfgang Greimel repeated the climb by the same route.
Little Chiantar (5,765 m.) and Koh-i-Chiantar (6,416 m.)
During the ascent of Chiantar Central Peak, we discovered that Point 6,930 m. on the Polish map does not exist. Point 6,416 m. on the international atlas was accordingly identified as the highest mountain of the Chiantar group (between the Darkot and Karam- bar Passes). On August 14 von Gizycki and Plotz started out for this peak. First, they ascended the upper portion of the Chiantar glacier (i.e. its east branch) and then began the climb up the winding S-shaped west arete of the mountain which culminated in a small minor summit. Gamp 2 was established on a small ledge 250 m. below this point at a height of 5,510 m. On August 15 they reached this minor peak which they called Little Chiantar (5.765 m.). In order to avoid several pinnacles on the ridge, they were forced to undertake a rather tedious traverse on the icy north face of the mountain. Then followed an ice ridge covered with deep snow which, after first climbing steeply and then levelling out, led to the summit. The last part of the ascent was particularly tiring and von Gizycki and Plotz did not reach the summit before night had fallen. As this was the highest peak of the entire massif, it was named Koh-i-Chiantar (6,416 m.). They were forced to bivouac under extremely cold conditions. Greimel and I, and ‘Sepp’ the porter started off the same day as the others but, as we were burdened with the major part of the high-altitude equipment, we did not get as far as Camp 2 and spent the night 250 m. lower at the foot of a steep ice ridge (Camp 1, 5,250 m.). This delay of one day cost us our victory, for the weather broke the following night. It snowed all night and the whole of the next day and we were only able to struggle up as far as Camp 2, only to find it empty. Von Gizycki and Plotz did not reach Camp 2 until the afternoon, exhausted but safe and sound. They fought their way down through the storm and masses of new snow along the long ridge and once more over Little Chiantar. Under the circumstances there was no question of a repeat ascent of the mountain by the second rope as the storm raged without intermission. The fine weather was over for good and all.
On August 17 von Gizycki, Plotz and ‘Sepp’ descended to Base Camp and Greimel and I climbed Little Chiantar for the third time. Situated to the north-east of this peak is an enormous plateau, which leads down to the Chhateboi glacier, flowing into the Karambar valley (not to be confused with the Chhatiboi glacier, west of the Darkot Pass, and which flows into the Yarkhun). This plateau which we named Munich Plateau lies at a height of 5,500 m. and is an ideal starting-point for several climbs. We descended a steep ice-slope and established Camp 3 at its western edge (5,500 m.). Here our luck ran out. Although flat and free from crevasses, the plateau was covered with deep fresh snow and the going was very hard. The nightly storms soon covered up all tracks. We made towards the north in the direction of a 6,000 m. peak, but after climbing a short ice-slope to a col we found that the other side was extremely steep and we had insufficient rope. We put a fixed rope on the ice-slope and returned to Camp 3. Next day we tried the west ridge of Koh-i-Chiantar but, as we feared, were forced to abandon it owing to iced rocks and much new snow. Food was running low and we had to get back to Base Camp. As we had no wish to traverse Little Chiantar again we tried a more direct route and descended an ice-wall towards the west. This was a mistake as we kept meeting unexpected vertical pitches and the ice was very precipitous and in bad condition. It took us a long time to work our way through the maze of crevasses on the glacier and in consequence we did not reach Base Camp until late in the evening. We had two days off and then ‘Sepp’ and I brought up more food from the depot down in the Garmush valley.
Points 5,590 m. and 5,300 m.
On August 22 von Gizycki, Greimel and Plotz ascended the south branch of the Chiantar glacier and erected another camp south of Base Camp. From here they climbed a fine ice peak, Point 5,590 m., and the following day a rock peak to the north, Point 5,300 m. Both these peaks are on the south-west ridge of Chiantar Central Peak. Von Gizycki was hurt by a fall on the descent and had to remain at Base Camp for a day or two.
Koh-i-Batzenhausl, East and West Summits (5,700 m.)
This mountain which I climbed solo on August 23 is situated to the north of Base Camp and is of particular geological interest as it consists of marble, flecked with veins of dark volcanic rock; even the marble itself has streaks of volcanic ash in places. It was undoubtedly a former volcano which at some later date had undergone radical changes. I crossed the Chiantar glacier in a northeasterly direction and ascended a small lateral glacier and scree to a col to the east of the peak and after scrambling over boulders attained the beginning of the jagged marble south-east ridge. This included some pitches of considerable difficulty(grade 4) and I had to contour several gendarmes on the right- hand side. The intrusion of the volcanic rock led to a general shattering of the surface which was very unpleasant. The ridge changed over to a sharp edge with impressive views down the vertical south face. Eventually I reached the summit neve of the East Summit (about 5,700 m.). I called the mountain Koh-i- Batzenhausl after an old and pleasant Weinstube at Kufstein in Tyrol. The West Summit would appear to be slightly higher and I also climbed it via a long snow and rock ridge. After traversing the East Summit I kept slightly to the left (north-east) and descended by the steep-iced east face. After climbing out of a small glacier trough I turned south again and arrived at the col to the east of the mountain whence I went down the lateral glacier back to Base Camp.
Plateau Peak (5,850 m.)
As the weather seemed to have taken a turn for the better, after a couple of off days we made a second excursion to the Munich Plateau. On August 26 Greimel, Plotz and I with 4 Sepp’ the porter left Base Camp and ascended the long Chiantar glacier and the west ridge of Chiantar. For the fourth time we were obliged to traverse Little Chiantar as it provided the only route to the plateau. We reached Camp 3 at nightfall and found, unfortunately, that the tent which we had left there was no longer in prime condition. The weather and condition of the snow were not too good either. Next day Greimel and Plotz set off to attempt the 6,000 m. peak lying to the north of the camp. They abseiled down to the cwm on the north side of the col which they had reached on the first attempt, but had the misfortune to break an ice-axe. This made the return to the col difficult and as a consolation they climbed the small summit to the east of the col, which they called Plateau Peak (5,850 m.).
Koh-i-Chhateboi (6,150 m.)
On August 28 Greimel, Plotz and I made yet a third attempt on the same 6,000 m. summit, which this time ended in complete success. Climbing a short ice face we reached the above- mentioned col to the west of Plateau Peak and roped down the other side to the small glacier cwm. We made our ascent to the east arete via a steep gully lying at an angle of more than 50°, but as the ice was in good condition we made relatively rapid progress. The summit, which we called Koh-i-Chhateboi (6,150 m.), was gained via the snow-covered upper part of the east ridge and a short terminal wall.
Beyond the Chhateboi glacier winding away to the north into the Karambar valley we could see the Qalandar Uwin and Khora Bhurt Passes leading to the Wakhan (Afghanistan).
To the east lay the Karakoram, most of the peaks being covered by cloud. We descended by the same ice-slope then turned directly towards the south-east, following the small glacier right down to the valley and gained the east part of Plateau Munich. Here we found that porter 4 Sepp’ had in the meantime set up an advanced Camp 4 further to the east. Late that evening Peter von Gizycki returned to us having completely recovered from his fall. He started that morning from Base Camp, traversed Little Chiantar and found our Camp 4.
Koh-i-Warghut (6,130 m.)
For some time past we had been aware of a bold and steep ice pyramid rising at the east end of the plateau. We had put off any attempt on it owing to the great difficulties to be expected ; now, however, we were ready to have a crack at it. Unfortunately, the weather was getting worse every day. A snowstorm raged continuously and we were unable to leave our tents. However, on the following day we set off despite the continuing bad weather but were forced to turn back at the foot of the climb owing to the onset of yet another snowstorm. On August 31 von Gizycki, Greimel, Plotz and I set out, although conditions had barely improved. We stamped out a track through deep new snow to the foot of the mountain at the east end of the plateau. Our tracks of the previous day were completely snowed over and we made very slow progress to the notch at the start of the southwest ridge. Visibility was far from good and we were enveloped in mist and driving snow. We climbed up a steep ice-slope and reached the shoulder of the south-west ridge which was studded with jagged towers. At this point the clouds closed in completely, it began to snow and we decided to wait a bit. Gradually the weather showed signs of improvement, so we started off again. The snow-covered granite rocks to the right did not appear inviting, so we ascended the ice-wall to the left, which gradually increased in steepness. This was followed by a narrow ice ridge which finally led to the summit. There was very little room on top and we could only get on it with great care. In the meantime the weather had cleared up and we were able to get a limited view. We could see Koh-i-Chiantar, the Munich Plateau, Koh-i- Chhateboi and the Chhateboi glacier. To the east there was a precipitous drop into the Karambar valley beyond which soared the Karakoram covered in thick cloud. We were standing on probably the most easterly 6,000 m. peak of the Hindu Kush, which we named Koh-i-Warghut (6,130 m.) after a village in the Karambar valley. (Although the upper Yarkhun valley belongs to Chitral, Chitrali is not spoken there but Wakhiq which is prevalent in Wakhan (Afghanistan). We therefore intentionally chose the name ‘Koh-i-‘ which up to then had only been applied to mountains in Afghanistan).
We roped down the steep upper part of the ridge and descended to the Munich Plateau, making a track through the deep snow to Camp 4. Next day we struck camp and crossed the plateau to the west. We traversed Little Chiantar for the last time and descended the Chiantar glacier to Base Camp. The next few days were devoted to rest and preparations for breaking up camp.
Point 5,130 m.
On September 5 Peter von Gizycki ascended via the north col (4,920 m.) Point 5,130 m., situated on the ridge leading to the south from Chiantar Central Peak to Point 5,678 m. (probably lower than indicated on the map). The descent was made by the same route.
Points 5,360 m. and 5,480 m.
On September 5 Greimel and Plotz advanced up a glacier situated to the south-west of Base Camp and climbed Points 5,360 m. and 5,480 m. adjacent to Point 5,715 m. on the international atlas. These peaks are situated on the ridge between Points 5,459 m. and 6,177 m. Both peaks afforded an unrivalled panorama of the valleys to the west, the Garmush valley and an unnamed valley which are united by a common glacier. There are a number of unclimbed 6,000 m. peaks in this area.
From the Chiantar Glacier to Chitral
On September 6 we transported the greater part of our baggage down to an agreed point below the crevassed zone of the Chiantar glacier. The drivers and their yaks were awaiting us and we wended our way down the long Chiantar glacier to the valley. We had to spend one more night on the glacier before we finally left it. We now encountered fresh difficulties, for the retreat to
Gilgit was cut off. Bad weather had made the Darkot and Karambar Passes and the road to Ishkuman impracticable for pack-animals and it was impossible to get hold of porters, so we were forced to march the full length of the Yarkhun valley to Chitral. The road was good, passing along a wide valley floor beset with numerous hills, lakes and excellent grazing grounds. We stopped for the night at a village to the south-east of the Darwaza An. Next day we continued past a hot sulphur spring and the Baroghil Pass ; the valley narrowed and we spent the night at Chilmarabad. On the following day we passed the military camp of Ishkarwarz and the end of the Chikar glacier which flows down from the Darkot Pass to the north-west. N Impressive looking peaks were to be seen to the south, all over 6,000 m. and all unclimbed, the most prominent of which was Chikar Zom (Gahkush, 6,110 m.) to the west of the Darkot Pass. The valley narrowed down to a deep gorge into which descended the southern glaciers (e.g. Chhatiboi glacier). We spent the night at Kishmanja. In the south reared the stupendous Koyo Zom (6,872 m.), probably the most interesting problem of the eastern Hindu Kush (A J., Vol. 73, illus. 16). The track now became very irksome, at times it closely skirted the Yarkhun river and then climbed high above the valley over extremely exhausting boulders. More 6,000 m. peaks appeared in the south, the most interesting being Thui I (6,660 m.) between the Kotalkash and Ponarilio glaciers and Thui II (6,523 m.) between the Shetor and Risht glaciers. There is plenty of scope in this region for future mountain exploration.
The valley widened near Kan Khun and we arrived at Lasht. where we obtained horses and thereafter made more rapid if not comfortable progress. The valley once again narrowed almost to gorge-like dimensions at Nekhcherdim, where the track from the Shah Jinali Pass joins it. We had to cross a small pass and were frequently obliged to dismount owing to the deteriorating path. We stopped for the night at Dobargar. The weather now took a turn for the worse, with storms and copious rain. After passing Wasar the valley widened somewhat, the track improved and we made good progress as far as Bang. On September 14 we had to make a diversion where the track had broken away and in doing so, we lost a horse over the edge/further delays ensued and we only got as far as Brep. Next day a good track led us to Mastuj where we telephoned for a jeep. The following morning we had only a short section to negotiate as far as Sanoghar where we,picked up two jeeps which took us to Chitral via Buni and Kuragh and the narrow gorge of the Mastuj river.
The Way Out of the Mountains
We encountered renewed political difficulties in Chitral, which were only to be expected. By September 20, everything was finally ironed out and we travelled by jeep to Dir and thence to Peshawar and Rawalpindi by the regular motor bus service. Here we rested for two days and on September 24 we finally began the return journey, arriving in Kabul (Afghanistan) on the 26th. Plotz stayed behind here in order to sell our car, later going on to India. We found a cheap forwarding agency for our baggage and then resumed our journey by public transport. We left Kabul by bus and after short stops at Herat and Teheran arrived at Istanbul on October 9. We reached Munich by train on October 12.
Summary-Chiantar glacier region, Eastern Hindu Kush. Miinchner Hindukusch-Kundfahrt, 1967. Alfred Linsbauer (leader), Peter von Gizycki, Wolfgang Greimel, Gunter Plotz.
|-von Gizycki and Lins-|
Thirteen first ascents were made:
July 25 Shimilik, 4,928 m.- bauer
August 13 Chiantar Central Peak, 5,291 m.-von Gizycki
15 Little Chiantar, 5,765 m.-von Gizycki and Plotz
15 Koh-i-Chiantar, 6,416 m.-von Gizycki and Plotz
23 Koh-i-Batzenhausl, c. 5,700 m. (East and West Peaks)-Linsbauer
23 Point 5,590 m.-von Gizycki, Greimel and Plotz
24 Point 5,300 m.-von Gizycki, Greimel and Plotz
27 Plateau Peak, 5,850 m.-Greimel and Plotz
28 Koh-i-Chhateboi, 6,150 m.-Greimel, Lins bauer and Plotz
31 Koh-i-Warghut, 6,130 m.-von Gizycki, Greimel, Linsbauer and Plotz
September 5 Point 5,130 m.-von Gizycki
5 Point 5,360 m.-Greimel and Plotz
5 Point 5,480 m.-Greimel and Plotz
In addition a geological survey was made.
 Climbed in 1968 by A. Stamm.