We had decided to use alpine method so we split up into three pairs who would climb independently. We would simply keep contact by sending a green flare every evening when away from base camp. The method was crude, as often we were out of sight of each other and, in any case, I wonder what we could have done if one evening we had seen a red flare; the nearest telephone was a week away and apart from ourselves there were no rescue possibilities in the country anyway. Personally I don't recall even thinking about this, the arrogance of youth! When Dave and I disappeared for eight days on an unplanned trip over to the Munjan valley, apparently the others started to get worried, but we never talked much about it after. I think we promised not to do it again, then set off for another climb.
Two years later this same confidence proved tragically unfounded when, on another expedition, in Bolivia this time, two friends paid the price. It is certain that luck, good or bad, counts a great deal but I still think that concerning the Hindu Kush, objective conditions do excuse us a little.
The principal cause, or aggravating
factor, of most accidents in the mountains is the weather, especially sudden
changes. During the whole time we were in Nuristan we had perfect weather,
generally clear blue skies, occasionally a little cloud, but nothing dramatic
and there was little in the way of wind. Towards the end of the stay we had a
few flurries of snow, probably caused by the monsoons further South-East, and
this was the signal to head for home.
Secondly, the long dry spells meant that the glaciers were mostly dry, that is to say without the soft snow cover which partly covers crevasses and leads to so many accidents.
Thirdly, the rock; there is a lot of stone fall on the faces, as the screes and endless moraines witness, but these can generally be avoided by keeping to the ridges. We didn't always follow this advice as the climbing reports in the annex witness, but a more prudent party could, and should.
Finally, the mountains are of a
reasonable size, and the height difference between base and summit (maximum
9,000 feet to the top of Koh i Marchech) is altogether
compatible with alpine techniques. Still, all the same, we were certainly
blessed by good luck.
To get back to the
subject, the pairs were Ian and Rich, Kev and Paul, and Dave and myself (Bruce)
; Mags (click here for photos) took care of logistical support. As we climbed independently and this
report has been written from memory (I'm ashamed to say I didn't even keep a
diary) helped by scrutinizing slides and black and white photos, some of which I
printed for the first time, I can only really describe part of the expedition.
An expedition report was written and is annexed to this account, I also plan to
add to the text at a later date, if possible adding photographs from the other
participants .... if I can locate them.