Welsh team reach Afghan mountain summit

By Christopher Sleight
BBC News, Afghanistan

image captionThe team ran out of food on their climb up to Noshaq's summit

A Welsh expedition has made the first British ascent for 30 years of the highest mountain in Afghanistan.

The team, with three members from Anglesey and one from Alaska, reached the summit of the 7,492m (24,580ft) Noshaq on Wednesday.

Now back in Ishkashim, north-east Afghanistan, the climbers described how they had to dodge minefields on the approach to the mountain.

Team leader James Bingham said it was a "very tough" expedition.

He said the group had run out of food in the later stages of the climb and a broken stove meant they could not drink on some days.

"We were met with waist-deep snow, windslab conditions - which can bring on unpredictable avalanches - white-outs and storms," said Mr Bingham, from Rhosneiger.

"It was a very difficult expedition to mount."

Other members of the group were Mark Wynne and Quentin Brooksbank, both from Anglesey, and Bill Lyden from Alaska.

The three of the group who made the summit also spent two nights above 7,000m cut off from their food cache because of the white-out conditions.

They were only allowed to climb the mountain after accepting an armed escort from the commander of the police in Ishkashim.

Mr Bingham said the commander was worried that the expedition planned to pass close to the Pakistan border in an area where there is suspected Taleban activity.

"It was agreed that if we took on security, we would be granted permission to climb the mountain," he said.

"They sent four fairly tooled-up soldiers along with Kalashnikovs.

"They came up with us to a certain level and then they'd do joint patrols going up to the Pakistan border and then every second or third day they'd check on us."

Areas of the Hindu Kush are beginning to open up to tourists, having remained relatively peaceful during the Soviet occupation and the Taliban insurgency.

Small groups of mountaineers, trekkers and skiers are beginning to visit the area, attracted by the unexplored peaks and stable climate.

Mr Bingham said they had received a "very friendly and warm welcome" everywhere they went in Afghanistan.

"It's been a wonderful experience to visit and climb here," he added.

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