"Ghotolti Dreams", new route on the unclimbed Jinnah Peak for Franz Rota Nodari, Tarcisio Bellò and Mara Babolin

The report of the expedition

20 July 2017
At the end of this june Francesco Rota Nodari, Tarcisio Bellò and Mara Babolin, during a socio-humanitarian expedition in Pakistan, had climbed the unclimbed "Jinnah PEak" (6177m) onpening the line "Ghotolti Dreams". Here's the report by Francesco Rota Nodari.

Text Franz Rota Nodari

The Socio-Humanitarian expedition

Me, Tarcisio and Mara have been in Hindukush (Pakistan) between June and July 2017 for a socio-humanitarian mountaineering expedition. Socio-humanitarian because some years ago a collaboration between Italy and Pakistan was started for the revaluation of the village of Ghotolti, in the upper Ishkoman Valley, in the district of Gilgit-Baltistan. So the "Montagne e Solidarietà" onlus association was born and it lives thanks to donations from Italian contributors. The first useful work was the construction of an aqueduct and a fountain in 2009. The problem of water potability in these areas is remarkable and access to clean water resources is always difficult. Subsequently, in 2013, following the collapse of the wooden bridge that provided access to the country, a new iron bridge (carried from Italy in pieces) was installed, thanks to the Italian industry. The birth of the whole project is linked to the sad loss on Broad Peak, an 8,000 summit exactly in Pakistan, in 2009, of the climber Cristina Castagna, from Vicenza. In this year born the idea of create a Community Climbing Center dedicated to Cristina: a shelter that can host tourists and mountaineers who want to visit these forgotten areas. This will be a place where "teach crafts" to the Pakistani people and which gives an opportunity to work to locals (always at the expense of Italian donors) for the 3/5 (?) years necessary to the construction.

This solidarity project step-by-step marked a remarkable change in the people of Ghotolti. Hearing their words of enthusiasm and gratitude for what has been done, from the aqueduct to the bridge, to the new shelter under construction ... it's exciting. Seeing the dedication to collaborating on a unique idea, realizing dreams (exactly the "Ghotolti dreams") was something full and engaging for me!

The Mountaineering expedition

The program of our team was that Tarcisio, Stefano and Mirco would coordinate in the 30 days they would have been in Ghotolti the beginning of the works for the foundation of the refuge. Tarcisio then, when Mara and me arrived, would have made a mountaineering "break" to try to climb the last "unclimbed and unnamed" 6000 in the Hinduraj chain, on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Nowadays, find a peak of 6000 meters unclimbed is quite difficult, apart to search it in highly isolated or forbidden areas (such as Buthan or China). For a long time these mountains have been "forbidden" at military level for proximity to Afghanistan and for Taliban disputes too. Surely, the locals, due to the lack of adequate means for climbing at this level, and for primary interests that are very different from the "recreational" aspect of mountaineering, never climbed it. The great knowledge of these areas of the mountaineering people from Vicenza and of the various expeditions that took place here, are the guarantee of absolute truthfulness of the information regarding the first climbs. Moreover, anyone approaching these mountains is helped by the same agency (Adventure Tour Pakistan - ATP) like us, because of access (jeeps and donkeys) and permissions (many passport police checks) with absolute certainty about who (and of which nationality) has visited these remote lands.

In total, the peaks over 6000 meters identified in this sub-range of Hindukush are 11: Garmush North, 6048m; Garmush, 6244m (these two however are beyond the watershed, towards the Chiantar glacier); Casarotto Kor, 6185m; Marostica Peak, 6107m; Italy Peak, 6189m; “our” unclimbed and unnamed peak of 6177m; Karkamush, 6222m; Haiz Peak, 6105m. The Ko-i-Chiantar, 6416 m (the highest of the group), the Ko-i-Chatiboi, 6150m and the Ko-i-Warghut, 6130m, peaks are beyond the watershed to the Chiantar glacier too.

We have named our "6177m" (as checked in Russian maps), in the context of a project born some years ago, to Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the first Pakistani President thanks to whom and to the Pakistan Movement headed by him, Pakistan was born in 1947 as an independent country from Indian subcontinent. We called the route "Ghotolti dreams" in honour of the people of this village who has known a "new spring" in the recent years thanks to the collaboration with the Italians.

The exploration (European, Italian and especially from Veneto people) of these mountains begins in the late 1997 with an expedition led by Franco Brunello, from CAI of Montecchio Maggiore, through the Chiantar glacier. In 1999, Angelo Rusconi led other Asso (Lombardy) climbers to the "conquest" of a 5100. In 2000, the CAI Montecchio with Brunello and Tarcisio climb the Marostica, Nikolayewska and Italia peaks (to the latter, only for approaching and not for the summit, also an American and a Russian have took part). In 2001, 5000 meters peaks around Atar Lake have been climbed by CAI Asiago components. In 2002 the CAI of Rome is always close to Atar lake for climbing 5000 meters peaks. Another expedition/trekking for Peruffo, Stecca and Tombesi in 2004 has been performed. In 2007, Tarcisio Bellò, Mara Babolin, Roberta Bocchese and Bruno Castegnaro have climbed the Karkamush, 6222m (and another 5000). In 2009, Tarcisio climbed the Haiz peak, 6105m, for a new route on the W side. In 2013 another trekking of people from Vicenza arrive to a 5200 peak. In 2014 Ikbal peak - Sooth gah have been climbed. In 2015 there was an Ishkoman pass-Atar pass trekking. And then comes 2017 ...

There were American ascensions of Kampur and the Korean climbing of the Haiz peak and Austrian of Garmush in the year 1975 from the opposite side (followed by Chinese from there). The Ko-i-Chiantar, 6416 m (the highest of the group), Ko-i-Chatiboi, 6150m and Ko-i-Warghut, 6130m, have been firstly climbed from an Austro-German team in 1967 from Chiantar glacier.

The Climbing

From Ghotolti the trekking starts in the Bharu gah valley, then turns north until Mathantir, in 6h. From here always in north direction to the Soot gah valley in 3-4h and to the Gashukis lakes where we build our Base Camp (BC). After days and acclimatization trips, like the Brocca peak of 5033 meters, close to the difficult Diang peak, 5553m, we can start for the assault on the summit ... We continue on the morain turning left and entering the glacial cirque of Italia Peak, Jinnah Peak and Soot gah. We turn right and then arrive to the plateau at 4600 meters, below the Jinnah peak South East wall, placing the BC, at an appropriate distance from the serac.

We have climbed a couloir between rocks, under the 5700 (unnamed, elevation to be verified), between the Jinnah peak and the Soot Gah peak. The couloir, left branch of the main couloir, goes diagonally up to a 5050 m pass. This couloir is the key access to the S-E face because it avoids the dangerous and fragile basal seracs. We called it "Couloir Ueli Steck", in honour of the great Swiss mountaineer recently disappeared in Nepal. To access it you will need to find the best passage to overcome the very wide bergschrund and with an overhanging lip. Look for the way on the left or right side, behind the rocks. To the left is better because you can immediately take the correct branch of the couloir without crossing horizontally. Keep in mind that, due to the exposure, the entire wall when the sun comes is potentially suffers the risk of fall of stone or snow / ice material.

On the left side we made a 40-meter rope length by exploiting the rock for protections and building a belay (left to last abseil) at the end. After the bergschrund, once in the couloir this go up without a great slope (45-50 °) for 400 meters. From the ridge where it ends, we went downhill in the direction of the Jinnah peak wall, with snow picket or ropes on emerging rocks, for two lengths of rope. The following serac has to be crossed more or less horizontally depending on the conditions, with piolet climbing on ice walls (70°), protecting easily with ice screws. So we can access to the bottom of the wall, which initially is relatively dangerous for the presence of two seracs (not too impressive) on the right and left. Remain in the centre for 100 meters (50 degrees) then going toward a rocky ridge on the right that separates the wall of our face from the couloir that comes down from the right col. At this point the climb is quieter and less exposed to collapses. You cross the couloir to take a rocky central rib, well visible even from afar. Holding the right side, we climb the rock for 3 lengths of rope that can be easily protected with pitons, lanyards, friends (IV max) and then climb over the rib to the left and enter into the main slope. There are still some rope lengths behind the rocks to get to the wall. Here the central and "endless" section of the ascent begins: a steady slope leading to the col of 5800 meters. The first part in snow to be beat (but not too much, 30 cm), protection with snow pickets, slope at 50°; then 4 lengths of ice follow with a small layer of snow (10-15 cm); protect with screws. Slope 60-65 °. A last section at 50-45 ° on snow, trying to avoid ice covered by little snow for "not staying on eggs", brings to the col at 5800. From here it seemed short to continue to the top and instead the ridge it’s very long with “cold” snow sections, others with emerging ice and needs screws. Before the peak, a terrace allows you to breathe for a moment before overcoming the big snow ledge with a short vertical step that gives access to the top shelf, paying attention to the ledge itself, which protrudes dangerously into the north wall.

From the terrace, using snow pickets (1 meter long, aluminium made, we have a 15), making abalakovs in the ice sections, using "ice mushrooms", rock pitons in the central spur,…with 7 rappels to reach the col and other 25 to get to the base of the wall, before the serac. We now rises slightly uphill to the "Colle Steck", and then we make other 7-8 rappels on pickets and a last one on a piton to overcome the bergschrund.

It was a technically not extreme climb, but “enervating” in descent. We start the climb at 4:30 AM of 30th June from the ABC, arriving at 8 PM to the top and coming back to the ABC at 8 AM on July 1st.

After a starting period of the expedition characterized by warm, but stable days, after having brought the material (tent, food, technical gears) to the 4600m ABC and the "Colle Steck" at 5050 m, after having first brought the material towards the Brocca pass at 4400 meters and then performed the beautiful climb of the Brocca peak (which we have renamed “Broken” because of a ruinous collapse of the top ledge), we "impose" ourselves the classic "resting day" at BC, before the attack to the top . It rains, not bad. The problem is that it rains even the next two days ... We do not demoralize and anyway we are always moving, climbing twice up to 4500 for pastures and meadows. The fourth day (29/06), despite the weather forecasts say the best day is 1th July, we decide to go to the ABC and be ready at the right time. We have reached it during a snowstorm, but soon the sky opens and the mountains clean up. After dinner and night we decide to leave, always with the eye on the horizon ... Actually, we will find out only when we back down that the forecasts (we were in touch with Italy - thanks MaPi - to consult the mountain-forecast.com website) have changed and the ideal day has become the 30th!!! So the climb, day and night, will take place in the best weather conditions we could wish and hope for. We arrived at the ABC at 8AM, at 11AM it will start to snow: a small and fast precipitation that leaves space early to the sun, but being on the wall in that condition it would probably have meant a retreat. The next day, 02/07, at BC, ready to leave, we wake up under a thick rain. And even the next 2 days weather would be unstable, definitely not "ideal" to such a climb. In short, we've got her "haircut", as usually said...

How can I finally summarize this 23 days Pakistani experience? Well, with few words and pictures I find it’s impossible. The mountains? Fascinating, beautiful, exceptional, but they are just adjectives ... It's superb “our” peak, both aesthetically and for the challenging climb, but what I will remember more of this experience is not the mountaineering part (probably from the outside the most " sellable "and with greater appeal), but the contact with people ... with the locals ... the Pakistani people, simple and special, with a delicious hospitality. Hosted for dinner and night in little villages made of stone and wood as we were old friends ... around the fire ... with local food and much love. Raza, Ali, Amin, Amir, Sher Murat, Sher Baz, Achim, Syeed, ... Many names, so many faces, many new friends ...

Particular thanks to my rope partners Tarcisio Bellò and Mara Babolin for the wonderful experience at altitude. Obviously a special thanks to Tarcisio for having involved me in this all-round adventure, which goes far beyond the mountaineering aspect. And thank you to Stefano Mattiello and Mirco Forte who have given so much for the project in time and effort!

Anyone who wants to contribute and have information about the "Rifugio Cristina Castagna" project can go to the Facebook page

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