To the base camp
One donkey can carry 20kg. We are taking six of them, this must be sufficient. It seems like an easy math. To the base camp’s it’s approximately 35 kilometres. In the 80th, afraid of a not very probable invasion from Pakistan in this valley on two photogenic Alpine meadows, the Mujahedeen laid a pile of mines. These mine fields had to be circumvented with a climb through unpleasant scree slopes. The mines were removed a few years ago and then the villagers worked intensely on the trail, so today donkeys can pass the whole way to the base camp. “Maybe we could have calculated that better?” we wonder under our thirty kg backpacks, while our “porters” not carrying anything are just organizing their animals with the remaining load.
The next day at noon, after another 6 hours of walk, we arrive to a nice flat field at a side of the glacier moraine. We pay our small contribution to the local GDP – i.e. 33 USD per porter (donkey driver) and start to inhabit our temporary home. The base camp is located at an altitude of 4640 meters and has beautiful views over the northwest ridge Noshaq (7490 m). In addition to Noshaq there are other interesting peaks with challenging lines around. For us Gumbaz-e-Safed (6830m) seems to be the perfect choice. The plan is clear – firstly, perfect acclimatization on Noshaq (possibly by climbing it during our second acclimatisation round from the BC) and then, when we would feel in good shape – one steep line in the valley.
We start right away with inspecting the area. It seems great – the junction of glaciers above the base camp is easy to pass. Hence, the access to Noshaq and other peaks is fast and safe.
We observe a lively movement of rocks and ice (ie. Frequent avalanches) in the couloirs and faces of the surrounding mountains. “Are you sure that the Czech guys did not see a single avalanche during their expedition here?” Martin is doubting the information we got on Skype from Honza Haráč, who together with Martin Ksandr, summited Noshaq in 2013 (as the first Czechs after thirty years). It seems this season the conditions are completely different.
After two nights in the BC we move to the advanced BC at about 4900 metres. The next day morning we cross the glacier and make our way through lower slopes towards the northwest ridge of Noshaq. The sun is strong so the snow gets quickly soft and deep and it is a hard work. A bit higher on the glacier we can move quicker. In a few hours we got to a beautiful platform on the ridge at 5550 meters. That´s the first camp (C1). We dig a luxury space for our tent, cook and stare in the beautiful valley for the rest of the afternoon. Pakistan is behind the ridge. One tiny red dot down on the moraine – our BC – and now a temporary yellow dot on the ridge – our C1. Nothing else. We are all alone in these majestic mountains. Just this is an unforgettable experience.
Seamlessly reaching C2, but..
The weather in the valley is fine. There is almost no wind but the rest of Noshaq above us is hidden in clouds. We don’t care that much since we are not heading further up anyway. We climbed up along the ridge to 6000 metres where we spent a night. We could sleep surprisingly well given that we arrived to the BC only a few days ago. However, the good vibes do not last long.
With our satellite phone we finally manage to reach Sayeed – our key contact down in the valley in the Qazi Deh valley. “Guys sorry, we were really looking for the keys.. I sent my people there, but we could find them.”
While we were on the trek to the base camp a couple of days ago we found out that our only keys from the car (hanging on a yellow doll pendant) are missing. We must have lost them on our way from the Afghan border to the Qazi Deh village. That means three taxis and one hostel. We comforted each other – “We will certainly find it, because if not … (a moment thinking about possible solutions and their costs) … Man, I really don’t know what we would do then.” Now let’s hope that a personal visit to the valley would sort things out. However, the cards we are holding are miserable.
Before we finish breakfast, our C2 is already in clouds. We ski down along the ridge. With no sun shining the snow is quite hard and under C1 its concrete like. In the steep part our steepness meter indicates some 48 degrees. With our big backpack we have to be quite careful. Even in the lower parts of the slope there is still enough snow so we can comfortably ski to the moraine of the glacier. We leave the skis and other stuff on the other side of the glacier under a rock (ie. our advanced base camp) and head down to the BC.
After a quick lunch in the BC agent M. embarks on the crucial mission to find the yellow doll. Will he find it or will we spent the next three weeks with procurement of new keys instead of climbing here?