Dave and Bruce's first outing.



La premier sortie de Dave et Bruce.

The ascent of point 5700 - Koh i David

From 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.

Between 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.

We 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.

In 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...

That 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.

Next 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.

We 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!

We 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. .

On 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.

But 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.  




 Updated 26/04/2014