|Dave and Bruce's first outing.|
|La premier sortie de Dave et Bruce.|
ascent of point 5700 - Koh i David
the base camp meadow, we could see a fine looking pointed peak on the main
ridge right at the top of the side valley. It wasn't one of the biggest in
the area and it seemed a good idea to explore the valley while getting
acclimatized, before trying anything higher. We set off with gear and food
for a few days. The weather was fine and the place was superb, first past
a picturesque goatherd hut, then up the valley following a babbling brook.
We then encountered what was to become our only real misery, the miles of
loose moraines and screes filling the side valleys. As they were untrodden
by human, or other, foot, they were totally unstable. Large blocks slid
under your feet in a most unpredictable way, something unknown in our over
frequented part of the world. With a heavy pack the going was atrocious,
and every trip involved many hours of it: I'm sure I've forgotten just how
much so. We called them "mine fields", but little did we imagine
that one day they would become literally this.
moraines there were often pleasant flat, sandy areas, formed by streams of
melt water, with rough grass and alpine plants, no trees though, we were
too high. As we were supposed to be doing some
research of a botanical nature, more Ian's field than Dave and
mine's, we kept our eyes open for interesting flowers. I was particularly
keen on finding Edelweiss for some reason, but I don't think I ever did.
Ian described it to me numerous times but each time I found something
which seemed vaguely similar, somehow I had forgotten his description, a
bit like identifying woodland fungi from a book.
had regular stops, lunchtime always involving opening of tins, sardines,
fruit and so on, always rounded off with... yes, roasted peanuts. Every
ration bag, all pre-packed in two man-day bags in London, something I
strongly recommend to anyone going on a similar trip, contained a generous
helping of this hearty fare - something I'm not quite so sure I would
recommend! I must admit, though, that later on this proved to have its
advantages. After each such meal, we developed a sort of ritual: the tins
would be set up in a pile at a suitable distance, then we would not
continue our trudge until all had been demolished by throwing stones. It
was a way of delaying the agony a bit, I suppose.
the evenings, we always tried to stop early to find, or build, a flat spot
and surround it with a stone wall to keep the evening breeze off, there
were no shortage of stones for the purpose. Food and a comfortable place
to sleep, good weather, superb scenery, no one for miles to bother you,
who could ask for more? Oh, yes, the climbing...
particular evening we reached a campsite set up the day before by Dave and
Ian. We called it, with the originality of climbing expeditions,
"Camp 1". After a pleasant sleep we set off early the next morning and
continued over the rubble. By the afternoon we were at last on the
glacier, surrounded by a cwm of mountains, and spotted what looked like a
reasonable ice couloir giving access to the summit ridge. That would
have to wait till the morning, for now we set about leveling off a bivi
sight on the snow.
morning, after another comfortable night, we got off to an early start. A
mile or so across the badly crevassed glacier led to the couloir. This
proved to be straight forward, apart from avoiding the falling bricks, and
we reached the ridge and passed the cornice on the right, without roping
up. The ridge itself was fairly easy going but quite exposed in places, we
roped up from time to time but usually moved together, sometimes on icy
snow, sometimes broken rocks.
stopped for the night at about 18,000 feet, sleeping well on a platform
flattened in the snow on the ridge. We woke to one of the most splendid
mornings I have ever known, above us the sky was a perfect rich blue, the
air was totally clear and below the valleys were filled with a blanket of
cloud, tinged with gold from the rising sun. Typically, I had black and
white film in my camera!
continued up the ridge, there was one particularly fine field of snow
spikes, fragile flakes often two or three feet high which crumbled as we
crossed them leaving a trough to mark our passage, we were glad to have
the rope as although it was not difficult climbing, the glacier looked a
long way below. And so, after one false summit, to the top, this turned
out to be a heap of large rocks. By now the weather was turning cloudy,
with a few flakes of snow, but we still had some impressive views of the
surrounding peaks. Nearby, we were a bit disappointed to see that we were
on the summit of point 5,700 and not 5,797 as we had thought: the later
was further along the ridge. Further off we thought we could see Tirich
Mir and perhaps even K2. .
the way down, we had an illustration of how easily things can go wrong in
the mountains when you're tired and the thinness of the air slows down the
neurons. We were going down the ridge unroped over easy rocks, I came to a
snowy patch where we had kicked steps on the way up, I hesitated, should I
put my crampons back on or not? I couldn't be bothered, started down, and
the next thing I knew I was accelerating down the snowy right hand side of
the ridge on my back. By a stroke of luck a clump of sharp rocks brought
me to a halt just before the slope steepened and fell away to the glacier
thousands of feet below. I was unhurt except for a cut on my wrist, I
still have the scar to remind me of how important good luck is when one
lacks good sense. Before heading for the hills, you should always ask
Clint Eastwood's famous question: "Are you feeling lucky?" The
day I answered no, I stopped climbing mountains.
that day was still many years away and we carried on down without further
mishap to top of the ice couloir, cramponned down this accompanied by
various bits of the mountain that decided to come with us, and reached the
glacier leading down to our bivi site. The next day across the by now
familiar moraines, Dave stayed at the high camp and I carried on to base
camp once more.