Paul and Bruce's last walk up the valley behind base camp .

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DerniŤre ballade de Paul et Bruce.

The others had also had a good time climbing and had accomplished numerous ascents, Ian and Rich had competed the ascent of Point 5797, the Cathedral (5,680m) and were particularly pleased with the South East Buttress of Shah i Kabud (6,190m). Kev and Paul had climbed a plethora of peaks, notably the unclimbed Pyramid (5,820m) and the Shark's Tooth (5,640m). The details are in the complete expedition report in the annex. Time was getting on and we were starting to see signs that the season was drawing to an end. Dave and Rich decided to head back to Barg e Matel in advance to carry out essential repairs on Albert, the final part of the track up to the road head had been the last straw for the engine mounts and a fair bit of serious bodging would be required before we could head back home

Paul and I, however, were still game for a bit more climbing, and we decided to explore the valley behind base camp on the right looking up. It was the only one we had not visited. The mountains were fairly small but we could expect excellent views of the main range, so the decision was made. Paul was also interested in recovering an ice axe that an American he had spoken to in Barg-e Matal, Steve Arnon, had left up there.

Paul packed another of his enormous rucksacks, and off we went. As expected, the views were splendid, and, as we were by now well acclimatized, the walking was even pleasant. There were no moraines to trudge over; it was a little like North Wales, as the photos show. We camped on a level, grassy spot that reminded us of home except for the superb, slightly more dramatic views in all directions. There were some small glaciers to add a bit of interest, and we enjoyed ourselves climbing several minor peaks and taking photographs. The rock was not the fine granite Dave and I had been used to but the panorama of peaks of the main Hindu Kush range before our eyes more than made up for this.

Once, when arriving at the crest of a rocky ridge, I was surprised to find myself face to face with a superb eagle. My initial fright proved unfounded as he soared off effortlessly, spiraled round a few times, then glided away, a pity we didnít have a telephoto lens. This was the closest I came to any of the local wild life, we had already seen eagles from a distance, and once I am sure a wolf came wandering along the far side of the base camp meadow. I ran after it to get a closer look, but it disappeared before I could get near it, just as well perhaps as, although I had grabbed an ice axe, I donít know what I would have done at close quarters! I saw nothing that resembled marmots, chamois or other large animals.

Paul found his ice axe, we scrambled up a couple of rather broken small peaks of just over 5000 metres, and put up the bivi tent for the second night.

In the morning we woke to find everything covered by a thin blanket of snow, and the sky filled with clouds. This was new for us; it confirmed our impression that it was time to leave. We put on our cagoules and mitts and, after this agreeable final outing, headed back to base camp for the last time.

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8/11/2001 Updated 26/04/2014