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Climbing unclimbed mountains, Muzkol Range, TajikistanTajikstan

A small British team hopes to make the first ascent of the last remaining unclimbed 6,000 metre high peak in Tajikistan's Muzkol Range (in the Pamirs), and then explore a little-visited valley in Afghanistan's Hindu Kush. The Muzkol Range was little explored during the Soviet era, the first recorded climbing not taking place until 1986. During the late 1990s a number of peaks gained first ascents by successive commercial expeditions. One peak to resist all attempts (and cause one fatality) was 6,128m Zartosh, finally climbed in 2009 by British mountaineers Graham Rowbotham and Adam Thomas. The unclimbed 6,000’er lies on the opposite side of the main valley to Zartosh, north-west of the highest summit in the range, Soviet Officer's Peak (6,233m).

Rebecca Coles, one of the expedition team, was awarded the first ever Jeremy Willson Mountain Exploration Grant as part of the British Mountaineering Council’s grant support programme. Rebecca, who has just completed a PhD in glacial geomorphology, has travelled with partner James Kitson through Tibet and Western China to Kyrgyzstan, before meeting a third team member, Mark Redhead, and reaching the Muzkol Range in Tajikistan at the end of July 2011.

The approach to the mountain will take the team from the Pamir Highway across a 5,200m pass into the uninhabited Muzkol Valley from where they will set up a base camp and then move supplies up the glacier to an advanced base camp before the summit attempt.

After leaving Muzkol, Coles and Kitson will cross the Tajikistan-Afghan border at Ishkashim and head a little way up the Wakhan Corridor, before moving south into the Raig Jurm Valley. Peaks in this valley, the head of which borders Pakistan, rise to 6,000m. Nine of these were climbed in 1972 by an Italian expedition, but there is little record of further visits, leaving a number of 5,000m peaks unclimbed.

Rebecca said “it was a wonderful surprise when [I was] emailed . . . about the JWCT grant the other day. I [searched the internet for] the JWCT straight away and read about Jeremy. It sounds like he was incredibly successful in living life to the full - if I manage to emulate even part of his philosophy I think I will be happy.

The 1,000 JWCT grant will pay for local porters, food supplies and homestays (when not camping in the mountains).

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a charity registered in England and Wales. No. 1114871