Buni Zom 2007 Expedition
From left to right: Akbar (guide), Dimitris Daskalakis, Vaggelis Zekis, Vasilis Naxakis, Stavros Moraitinis, George Voutiropoulos, Manolis Mesarchakis, Stamatis Konstantakopoulos, Fani Kousipetkou, Nikolas Kroupis, Kostas Mougkolias.
I had been at the Buni Zom mountain range on exploration trips in 20021 and 20042, searching for unknown and unpopular peaks. The aim was the steep Buni Zom Main peak, but the lack of information about the terrain and the route prevented our team from reaching the slopes of Buni Zom. This mountain range proved to be exactly what I was looking for and the desire to scale Buni Zom become even greater. With the support of the Greek Climbing Federation I organized an eleven member expedition transmitting to them the climbing excitement of this isolated peak. The eleven members of the expedition were George Voutiropoulos (leader), Stavros Moraitinis, Akis Karapetakos, Stamatis Konstantakopoulos, Fani Kousipetkou, Manolis Mesarchakis, Kostas Mougkolias, Vaggelis Zekis, Dimitris Daskalakis and Vasilis Naxakis and I. An independent climber, Nikiforos Stiakakis, also followed the expedition.
We took the plane from Athens to Islamabad and from there with a minibus we arrived and spend the night to Dir village. On the next day we traveled to Chitral, by jeeps. We reached Rahman village, our final destination, on July 15th. We set our base camp at Kulakmali area (3970m) which is a 7 hour trekking from Rahman village. Our equipment and supplies were carried to BC with the help of 44 porters. The expedition also followed 3 cooks from the local villages.
The attempt of Buni Zom Main peak, photo taken from C2 on Khorabort Glacier
The first ascent of peak named 6MT 6110m, NNW TD, 40°-70°, 900m, photo taken from Khorabort Glacier
The new route named "Vasilis" on Buli Zom north face, ED, 90°, 800m
We decided that it was best to split into two teams of six. The first section of the route, just after BC, was a steep rock V- (4a), 100m, where we put fixed ropes for easier transfer to higher camps. This section of climbing was followed by a hard and unpleasant moraine scrabbling which finally guided us to Khorabort glacier. On July 17th we set our first camp at the beginning of Khorabohrt glacier at 4780m and stayed there for acclimatization. On the next day the second team reached C1 while we returned to BC. On July 20th we left BC and headed for C1 where we spend the night and we set out for Khorabort glacier early in the next morning. The glacier was easy to cross without obvious crevasses.
We set our second camp at 5430, between Buni Zom Main and South peaks where we found running water on the extension of the NW ridge of the Main peak. On July 22th we returned to BC and resided there for two days. The second team followed the same plan with one day difference.
On July 25th we left BC and reached C2 early in the afternoon where we rest for a few hours before the summit attempt. Our plan was to climb the south face, which must have been the same route that Reinhard and Isherwood followed in 19793 and partly the same with the Japanese ascent in 19754. We started at 1:30am and reached the col between Main and South peaks and then continued on the left on the south face of Buni Zom Main peak. We started ascending the face on its right side. The weather was cloudy with some snowfall. At 5800m we traversed left to a big couloir heading up to the NW ridge. Above 6000m there was a layer of fresh snow and the danger of avalanches was prominent. At 9am we reached the NW ridge (6370m) where we had to decide whether we would continue our ascent or we would return. A gigantic cornice was protruding along the ridge and the unstable fresh snow made the traversing of the steep ridge impossible. So we had no option but to end our ascent some 300m from the summit. The last 100 vertical meters proved to be impossible to scale. We rappelled down the south face and reached C2 at 5pm.
On the same day we met the second team that reached C2 from C1. Under the circumstances the second team decided to attempt an ascent on Buni Zom South peak. They climbed the glacier passing through several seracs and crevasses and approached the peak from NW until they reached the west ridge at about 6050m. Only two members continued for the summit due to the extremely cold weather conditions. George Voutiropoulos and Akis Karapetakos finally reached Buni Zom South (6220m) at 7am and enjoyed the magnificent view of the Hindukush mountain range. The same day all the team members returned to BC bringing down all the gear and supplies.
The next couple of days we stayed at BC planning some ascents to nearby peaks. According to our plans we split into groups of two or three climbers. George Voutiropoulos and I would attempt an ascent to the unclimbed 6MT peak while Manolis Mesarchakis, Vaggelis Zekis and Nikiforos Stiakakis would go for a peak situated west of 6MT. Dimitris Daskalakis and Vasilis Naxakis would attempt an ascent to Buli Zom peak (5909m) and finally Stamatis Konstantakopoulos and Kostas Mougkolias would climb to Phargam An pass. During our stay at BC two climbers from Denmark, Morten Johansen and Carsten Jensen, arrived with the aim of ascending Buni Zom Main from east face crossing Gordoghan glacier. On 29th July they reached 4700m on Gordoghan glacier. They followed a wrong route so they had to do some rock and ice climbing but didn't manage to proceed further and set a camp at that altitude. Next day they return back to BC because they could not find a route to approach the Buni Zom Main east face.
Early in the morning on July 30th we left for the unclimbed peak 6MT with the minimum equipment. The route was the same until C1. We passed the camp and continued for about 1Km on Khorabhort glacier up to 4900m. Then we headed east to a smaller glacier between the Buni Zom South and 6MT. Around 3pm we reached 5125m and found a spot where the glacier was covered by a layer of rocks and decided to bivouac. From this point we could see to NE direction Buni Zom South and to SE direction 6MT. On the west ridge of 6MT there is a smaller, pyramid shaped, peak of about 5900m, which we called 6MT West. The north sloped of 6MT were covered with dangerous seracs so our options concerning the route to summit were reduced. On July 31st around midnight Manolis Mesarchakis, Vaggelis Zekis and Nikiforos Stiakakis started their ascent to 6MT West from the north slope with the aim of reaching the west ridge of 6MT and then continue on the ridge to 6MT West. The slope reached 65 degrees, at some points, and it was covered with frozen snow or ice. They managed to exit on the ridge at about 5600m but the ridge itself proved to be rotted rock which provided no belay capability. Under these circumstances they retreated and returned directly to BC.
On the same day George Voutiropoulos and I continued on the glacier until 5250m where we could see in front of us (to the east) the ridge between Buni Zom South and 6MT. We passed from the right of the seracs hanging on the north face of 6MT and headed for a rocky slope. We climbed on an icy couloir which run parallel to this rocky slope starting from 45 degrees at its lower end, and gradually its slope increased to about 70 degrees. This couloir led us to the ridge between Buni Zom South and 6MT peaks. George and I were advancing parallel in order to accelerate our ascent. We finally managed to reach the north ridge which led us to the around 8am unclimbed summit 6MT 6115m (or Buni Zom SS, or P6110) located N36 07' 45.5" - E72 20' 02.0". A large cornice was protruding from the summit to the east so we stood some three meters lower. Until that time the weather was good, but signs of bad weather started to appear while we were on the summit. On our way down we made 15 rappels of 30 meters, due to the fact that we only had a 60m rope. While rappelling down the couloir next to the rocky slope, a rock sliding occurred, but fortunately we were hit only by smaller rocks. We accelerated our descent and reached our bivouac spot at 12pm. The direction of the new route is NNW and of grade TD, 900m, 45°-70°. Later in the afternoon we descended back to BC, where we were informed about the fatal accident of Vasilis.
Earlier on 29th July Vasilis Naxakis and Dimitris Daskalakis left BC and went for Buli Zom peak, 5909m. Buli Zom is situated on the south side of Phargam Gol and about 3Km before BC, on the direction from Phargam village to BC. Buli Zom has a north steep face and there is no reference of previous ascents. On the first day the two climbers reached the face and forced to bivouac next to a serac in order to avoid falling rocks, at about 5000m. On the next day they started climbing the north face via a couloir. They exited the couloir and traversed to west on a 60degree slope until they reached an icefall. Through the icefall they gained height and continued up to about 5700m where they entered a field of fresh powder snow. It was impossible to climb through that field so they made a traverse in a mixed filed of rock and ice and finally through an ice fall they managed to get to the ridge near the summit at 6pm. This new route on the north face of Buli Zom was graded as ED, 90°, 800m and named "Vasilis".
They immediately started their descent with successive rappels. At about 9pm, near the middle of their descent, and having already had ten rappels, Vasilis Naxakis didn't secure himself sufficiently, slipped down the steep icy slope and fell to his death from a height of 100m. Dimitris Daskalakis continued rappelling, devastated, until a system of crevasses and seracs were the body of our friend must have been lying. Unable to find Vasilis, Dimitris returned shocked to BC early the next morning. The next two days all the members of our expedition, with the precious help of the two climbers from Denmark, searched for Vasilis but without any result, since his body could have ended at the bottom of any of the crevasses in that vast system of crevasses. With great sorrow we realized that Vasilis couldn't have possibly been alive and gave up our search.
On the 2nd of August we returned from BC, leaving our friend back, to rest at the place he mostly loved, the mountain.
1 Gordoghan Zom attempt, Nikolas Kroupis and George Zardalidis, The American Alpine Journal 2003, The World's Most Significant Climbs Vol.45, Issue 77, 2003, pp 363-364.
2 Gordoghan Zom III, George Zardalidis and Nikolas Kroupis, The American Alpine Journal 2005, The World's Most Significant Climbs Vol.47, Issue 79, 2005, pp 343-344.
3 Buni Zom, The American Alpine Journal 1980, Vol 22, Issue 53. pp 654.
4 Buni Zom, The American Alpine Journal 1976, Vol 20, Issue 50. pp 458.
Source: N. Kroupis
Photographs: N. Kroupis