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Trip Report from Noshaq -- Afgahnistan's Highest Point

September 24 2001 at 4:05 PM
roger  (no login)

I think we all subscribe to the theory that you learn a lot about an area from the vantage of its highpoint.

Toward that end, here are some observations:

+ The CIA Factbook which was the basis of my world highpoints list is wrong on the spelling (it called it Nowshak -- the correct spelling that is Noshaq.

+ The highpoint could result in fighting at heights unheard for the U.S. (Noshaq is 24,581 feet -- McKinley is 20,320 feet). Further, the highalpex site lists 73 6,000 meter peaks in the Hindu Kush range (McKinley is the only 6,000 meter peak in North America). The highalpex list is available at:

+ The range is named Hindu Kush which literally means "Hindu Slaughter." Any web search on this name reveals lots of diatribes directed by Hindus against the Islam conquerers. Here's an example:

Noshaq is on several prominent climbers resume. Below is the only online report that I could find.

Here are some excerpts:

Noshaq is located in the north west corner of Afghanistan along the Durand line which is the formal border of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The mountain has four separate peaks, of which the Main Summit is the second highest in the Hindu Kush Range, and the 68th tallest on Earth. It was first ascended in 1960 along the South East ridge from the Qadzi Deh Glacier in Afghanistan by Japanese and Polish teams, but since then the West ridge, also from Qadzi Deh, has become the normal route with several groups attempting each year until 1979.

Our walk in was largely uneventful. Jamie came down with a VERY bad cold, slowly made the rounds to to most of us. The scenery along the glacier is magnificent, very reminiscent of the Biafo Hispar Traverse and we went quickly, gaining nearly 2000 metres of elevation in 4 days. On the third day, our rest day at the Istoronal base camp, a rumour started to circulate that the porters were unhappy, running out of food (despite the fact that we had sacrificed a goat two days earlier), and were planning on not going beyond Babu camp, if they didn't turn back before then. This is not an uncommon occurrence in Pakistan. The porters know that once they are a few days away from the village and a day or two from the destination, their value is at its highest level. If porters go on strike, the climber have only two options -- concede the porter's demands (which is nearly always for more money), or carry the loads themselves. We convened an emergency meeting, and decided to adopt a stand tough strategy that would get us at least to Babu camp, and from there we would see.

Our plan worked however, and we made it without a hitch to Babu camp, but the porters immediately let it be known that they were going no further, and they wanted to be paid. Admittedly Babu camp is a very pleasant place -- up on a grassy, flowered corner overlooking 270 degrees of breath taking scenery, but from there it is three to four arduous hours over the Noshaq glacier to the base of the mountain, and we had forty-six 25 kilo loads to take there. This was why we were worried about the porters turning back at Babu, and why we engaged them is such serious negotiations in hopes we could convince them to carry on for a few more hours without breaking the bank. In the end it was fruitless. By leaving right then they had just enough time to make it back to their houses before nightfall, and if they continued they would have to spend another night camping. We did manage to secure the services of 10 men, and got the ten most crucial loads delivered to the base of the mountain (fixed ropes, climbing hardware etc). The porters went up and returned with exciting stories of the enormous dangers they had faced on the glacier, and we decided to set our base camp at Babu and make the camp at the bottom of Noshaq an advanced base camp. It would have fewer comforts, and no cook, but there was no other way.

In researching our climb, I read numerous expedition summaries and recaps written about the Hindu Kush from the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies. Back in those days it was not uncommon for people to pile in the car in London or Paris and drive for four or five days to Kabul to go climbing.

As is the case in many failed ventures there was finger pointing and ego at the end. How much of our decisions to abandon the climb was due to mistrust and bad feelings amongst the group is unclear, and how much was because of difficulty and differences in styles and conditions is known only to each climber. Also I tend to think that the differing reasons for being on mountain contributed to a degree of discord.

Here is a couple other references.
Peakware Encyclopedia:

Here's Kabul Weather (no current but there are forecasts)

Here's Afgahnistan Weather:

Here's Books
Everything on the topic seems to be on backorder but here are some books

A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush
Amazon Review:
No mountaineer, Newby set out with a friend to explore the formidable peaks of the Nuristan Mountains in northeast Afghanistan. His witty, unorthodox report is packed with incidents both ghastly and ecstatic as he takes us where few Western feet have trod. Eric Newby belongs to that enduring set of English travelers who investigate the world for their own amusement and then, to our great profit and pleasure, share their experience with us. This beguiling tale is a classic of travel adventure.

Unexpected Light : Travels in Afghanistan
This extraordinary debut is an account of Elliot's two visits to Afghanistan. The first occurred when he joined the mujaheddin circa 1979 and was smuggled into Soviet-occupied Afghanistan; the second happened nearly ten years later, when he returned to the still war-torn land. The skirmishes that Elliot painstakingly describes here took place between the Taliban and the government of Gen. Ahmad Shah Massoud in Kabul. Today, the Taliban are in power, but Elliot's sympathies clearly lie with Massoud.. The result is some of the finest travel writing in recent years. With its luminous descriptions of the people, the landscape (even when pockmarked by landmines), and Sufism, this book has all the hallmarks of a classic, and it puts Elliot in the same league as Robert Byron and Bruce Chatwin. Enthusiastically recommended for all travel collections.

World Trade Center Books
Divided We Stand: A Biography of New York City's World Trade Center
Amazon Review
This book is much more than its title implies. Beyond its focus on the World Trade Center, it descibes the development of Lower Manhattan with an inside look at a naked land grab by the Port Authority under the guise of public interest. Other major players include David and Nelson Rockefeller with the apparent collusion of the New York Times.

Books on Afghanistan

Books on World Trade Center

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