2005 – Noshaq Peak

In June 2005 Glenn Seljåsen, Steinar Haldorsen and David Baum attempted the summit of Noshaq Peak. They had tents, backpacks and down clothing from Helsport. Read here about their preparations, the trip, and the summit attempt.

Preparations 

Climbing to 7492m requires excellent preparation. And unless money is no obstacle, everything needs to be planned, down to the smallest detail. Our particular challenge was that one of the expedition members lived in Gothenburg, and two lived in Oslo. In other words, the spring of 2005 was spent mostly in telephone conference mode.

Most of the logistics were sorted in April, and more or less every evening was spent acquiring goods, coordinating plans, and discussing trip details. Not long after several important collaborators were signed up. Our ground services provider in Pakistan, Jasmine Tours, took care of what preparation they could from their end. In Norway, our agreement with Helsport meant one of the most important fundamentals was sorted – a roof over our heads on the mountain, backpacks, and down clothing. It was with a mix of horror and happiness that we measured the gross cargo weight sent to Rawalpindi: 343kg in 11 barrels, and 10 boxes with food and climbing gear. For a group with an above-average interest in climbing gear, it was a relief to get the biggest logistics sorted. We sent most of what we owned. With that done, we had about a week of relaxation before departure!

 

Departure

Tuesday 14 June Glenn, Steinar and David left Oslo for Islamabad. The latest weather report for Islamabad was 40C degrees, increasing towards the weekend and no breeze. A bit of a change from 13C degrees and rain in Oslo…

 

46C degrees in Islamabad 

The first four days were a bureaucratic dance with the Ministry of Tourism, and some final purchasing. According to the plan we were supposed to travel north to Chitral on Thursday but, because of delays with the climbing permit, we didn’t set off until Saturday. For three days in increasingly warmer weather – 46C degrees at the hottest – we drove back and forth between the hotel in Rawalpindi and the Tourism Ministry in Islamabad to nag about the permit. It turned out that the delay was courtesy of the Pakistani Intelligence Service. We were going to the area the United States believed Osama Bin Laden was in. We therefore had to get security clearance, we learned in hindsight.

 

Islamabad – Chitral 

We travelled northwards by bus to Chitral, overnighting in Dir. We considered driving through the night, but were advised against this as there had been a lot of problems with crime along our route. It was not safe to drive after dark, and we got even a police escort for some of the way.

Eighteen hours after leaving Islamabad we reached Chitral. Just outside the city you could spot the mountain Tirich Mir on the horizon. This mountain was originally summited by Arne Næss, Senior.

The evening we arrived Chitral we got an honorable meeting with Babu Muhammad – a living legend when it comes to facilitating alpine expeditions in the Hindu Kush. He remembered the Norwegian Tirich Mir expedition from the 1950s well. Mr. Muhammad could also confirm that only one attempt had been made to climb Noshaq from the Pakistani side – in 2000, without reaching the summit.

 

Shagrom and 42 porters

After an overnight stay in Chitral we carried on to the last outpost of civilization, Shagrom. After this, we were alone. That is, alone with 54 porters. Never in our wildest dreams could we imagine the need for so many porters. But the very first day towards the base of Noshaq, we felt the altitude. We slept at over 3500m the first night. Even if we noted the altitude, it was good to have cooler evening temperatures.

 

Base Camp – 4960m 

The path from Shagrom in to Base Camp is about 42 km, mostly on glaciers. It took a total of six days and, after spending the day crossing a very fissured glacier, we established Noshaq basecamp at 4960m. We spent a bit of time trying to find a suitable basecamp site, well protected for any avalanches and rock falls. The camp is located on the glacier, just 50 meters from a spectacular icefall with 10 meter high ice towers. From the tent we had a wonderful view over Noshaq’s south wall. We indulged ourselves with two days’ rest before starting to climb.

 

ABC, Camp I and II 

Progression up the mountain went relatively quickly, with ABC (5200m), Camp I (5450m) and Camp II (5850m) established over the course of a week. With the exception of a steep snow slope above the icefall, the technical challenges were going to wait.

ABC was established on the far side of the glacier, and up the slope a little. After the first crossing of the glacier and lots of rockfall, we decided future crossings should be done before dawn. This meant leaving basecamp at 0400 at the latest. ABC was used for accommodation only once, but became a handy spot to store equipment. Camp I became our overnight stopping point after leaving basecamp. Later, we would head directly to Camp II from basecamp. When attempting to establish Camp III on the border ridge between Pakistan and Afghanistan, we were surprised by a snowstorm at about 6200, and had to abandon our plans. The following morning we established the camp in glorious weather.

 

Summit attempt in 6 days

After two days’ rest at basecamp we started our summit attempt. With 35kg in our packs and enough food for a week, we headed out from basecamp to Camp II at 0200.

The plan was as follows:

14 July – Base Camp to Camp II

15 July – Camp II to Camp III

16 and 17 July – Establish the route up the border ridge

18 and 19 July – Summit days

20 July – Clear Camp III and Camp II, sleep in Camp I

21 July – return to basecamp, clear and pack

On the border ridge between Pakistan and Afghanistan our new route would align with the first summit attempt route, and follow this over a 400m altitude gain. Once up on Noshaq’s snowy summit ridge our plan was to follow the ridge directly to the main summit at 7492m.

However, it didn’t work out this way. Huge amounts of unstable snow, and a route that turned out to be more difficult than we hoped, made the decision to turn an easy one. After 4 nights at 6500m and several attempts to find alternative routes up the ridge, we headed down the mountain to basecamp, clearing as we went. Even though we hadn’t reached the summit we were pleased, knowing we’d conducted a successful, accident-free expedition. We had been in an area of the world only a few people get to visit, we’d been mesmerised by views over Afghanistan, the Wakhan corridors, and Hindu Kush, and we’d met local people and a foreign culture we will never forget.

The return trip down the Tirich glacier was much faster than the climb up, and the warm welcome in Shagrom was a nice contrast to the cold nights in Camp III.

You can read more about the expedition and about Noshaq Peak at

http://www.everestnews.com/pak2005/norgpak2005.htm