Winter 2014 | Tracing the Footprints of Andrzej Zawada

Noshaq Winter Expedition 2014

This winter, on what they call as 41st anniversary of first winter ascent of (mount) Noshaq, a four-member team is attempting to repeat the feat of Andrzej Zawada and Tadeusz Piotrowski. They intend to climb the 7492m Noshaq peak located at Pakistan-Afghanistan border, which is highest mountain of Afghanistan and second highest in Hindu Kush range (after Tirich Mir). The expedition consists of Polish Aleksandra (Ola) Dzik, Robert Róg, Hubert Szczepan Krzemiński and the Russian Oleg Obrizan.

The man (or the mind) behind winter Himalaism - Andrzej Zawada; Source

The Polish members of the team flew to Dushanbe (Tajikistan) on January 10th, where they met their Russian colleague. Their entrance to Afghanistan was delayed a little because of some change in visa issuance process. Eventually, the matter was sorted out and the climbers crossed the border on Jan 15th. After spending a day in Ishkashim (in Badakhshan province of Afghanistan), they left for Base Camp on 17th. 

The team reached Base Camp at 4200m in Qazi-deh valley on Jan 20th, and immediately started working on the mountain. They have already established C1 at 4900m. Ola Dzik has reported from the Base Camp that weather looks promising, while the ridge above C1 is also in good condition.

Ola Dzik - leader of the expedition; Source

Poles and Noshaq

First Ascent 
The Poles have a special relationship with Noshaq. In summer 1960, the Academic Alpine Club of Kyoto (Japan) sent a team of six climbers (who were also biologists, geologists and science students) to Afghanistan with the objective of scientific research in Wakhan corridor and the first ascent of Noshaq (7492m). They left Kabul on July 1st and reached the Base Camp in Qazi-deh valley on 16th. But the Japanese were taken by surprise when a European expedition also arrived there at the start of August. It was a Polish team led by Boleslaw Chwascinski, who intended to climb the same mountain.

The two expedition leaders discussed the possibility of a joint summit attempt; but when Japanese went up from C4 (6300m) on August 17th, none of the Polish climbers was ready for summit-bid. Toshiaki Sakai and Goro Iwat-subo reached the top at around 6:00PM that day, becoming the first men to arrive at the summit of Noshaq. Polish expedition continued the climb and summited on 27th, 10 days after first ascent. Both teams climbed south col and south ridge.

Noshaq; Source

Second Polish Ascent
However, the story doesn't end here. In 1960s, when the political and financial circumstances didn’t let the Polish climbers to go to Karakoram or Himalayas, they continued venturing in Hindu Kush and made several first ascents of lower peaks. In 1966, second Polish team ascended Noshaq via west ridge (first climbed by Austrians in 1963). It was fourth overall ascent of the mountain.

The Ladies Ascent
In 1972, an expedition led by Janusz Kurczab arrived at Base Camp to achieve the ladies ascent of the mountain. The legendary Wanda Rutkiewicz was also part of the team. Expedition was extremely successful as Jan Holnicki-Szulc, Janusz Kurczab and Krzysztof Zdzitowiecki made the first ascent of the southwest face in alpine-style on August 22, whereas eight other members summited via normal route (west ridge) on 23rd and 25th. It was also a Polish female altitude record, at that time.

Wanda Rutkiewicz; Image: Wikipedia

First Winter Ascent
But the most fascinating connection between Polish climbing and Noshaq was established in early 1973. Winter Himalayan climbing, that later become a Polish national characteristic, started from this mountain when Tadeusz Piotrowski and Andrzej Zawada reached its summit on February 13th. It was first winter ascent of a 7000m peak, which opened the doors of winter climbing in Himalayas.

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