Climbing unclimbed mountains, Muzkol Range, Tajikistan
A small British team hopes to make the first ascent of the last
remaining unclimbed 6,000 metre high peak in Tajikistan's Muzkol
Range (in the Pamirs), and then explore a little-visited valley in
Afghanistan's Hindu Kush. The Muzkol Range was little explored
during the Soviet era, the first recorded climbing not taking
place until 1986. During the late 1990s a number of peaks gained
first ascents by successive commercial expeditions. One peak to
resist all attempts (and cause one fatality) was 6,128m Zartosh,
finally climbed in 2009 by British mountaineers Graham Rowbotham
and Adam Thomas. The unclimbed 6,000’er lies on the opposite side
of the main valley to Zartosh, north-west of the highest summit in
the range, Soviet Officer's Peak (6,233m).
Rebecca Coles, one of the expedition team, was awarded the
first ever Jeremy Willson Mountain Exploration Grant as part of
the British Mountaineering Council’s grant support programme.
Rebecca, who has just completed a PhD in glacial geomorphology,
has travelled with partner James Kitson through Tibet and Western
China to Kyrgyzstan, before meeting a third team member, Mark
Redhead, and reaching the Muzkol Range in Tajikistan at the end of
The approach to the mountain will take the team from the Pamir
Highway across a 5,200m pass into the uninhabited Muzkol Valley
from where they will set up a base camp and then move supplies up
the glacier to an advanced base camp before the summit attempt.
After leaving Muzkol, Coles and Kitson will cross the
Tajikistan-Afghan border at Ishkashim and head a little way up the
Wakhan Corridor, before moving south into the Raig Jurm Valley.
Peaks in this valley, the head of which borders Pakistan, rise to
6,000m. Nine of these were climbed in 1972 by an Italian
expedition, but there is little record of further visits, leaving
a number of 5,000m peaks unclimbed.
Rebecca said “it was a wonderful surprise when [I was]
emailed . . . about the JWCT grant the other day. I [searched the
internet for] the JWCT straight away and read about Jeremy. It
sounds like he was incredibly successful in living life to the
full - if I manage to emulate even part of his philosophy I think
I will be happy.”
The £1,000 JWCT grant will pay for local porters, food supplies
and homestays (when not camping in the mountains).