Every picture tells a story – Diran Pakistan.

A very near miss on Diran peak Pakistan.

When you see a big avalanche in the mountains it is a reminder of the power of nature. I had seen many in Scotland and was involved in many rescues. I had huge respect after being in two in Scotland. I was on the RAF MRT 50 th Anniversary Expedition to Pakistan in 1993. Pakistan is a wonderful country and our mountains was just over 7000 metres was impressive. Unfortunately it was very avalanche prone. We sat for days watching huge Avalanches pour of the nearby Rakaposki and Diran Peak. It was frightening. Hamish MacInnes had been on Rakaposhi climbed by Tom Patey and Mike Banks in 1958. He had warned us of the conditions. Most of us on Diran had been to the Himalayas before but this seemed very different. Out in the big mountains you have to watch the weather and make key decisions. There is no Avalanche Service out there.

We were trying two routes one up the North Face but it was so dangerous due to avalanches it was a waiting game it is never easy on a big mountain. The team were moving up to Advanced Basecamp and some were sleeping the night there getting used to the altitude. A huge big avalanche hit the camp just before nightfall. We were so lucky no one was killed and arrived back at Base Camp shocked. We were using the standard Advanced Base Camp site that was supposed to be a safe as it could be. How wrong we were!

Our peak Diran : Viewed from the Hunza Valley, Diran is a gentle pyramid and is considered to be the second easiest 7000m peak in the Karakoram after Spantik, although it has a reputation for avalanches. The Karakoram Highway runs up the Hunza Valley and gives easy access to the mountain. This 7,266-metre (23,839 ft) pyramid shaped mountain lies to the east of Rakaposhi (7,788m) lies to south of bilshar dubani (6,143m)

According to a local expedition organiser, Raja Abbas, Diran is dubbed as the “killer peak”, as at least 40 mountaineers have died so far attempting to scale it. “The high number of casualties is due to frequent avalanches on Diran,” said Abbas, who has named his hotel in Nagar Valley after the peak.

It was interesting looking back on our trip to Pakistan in 1993 and though successful it was a close run thing. We learned so much, I had been to Nepal in 1990 on a small expedition of 6 pals on a very difficult peak but this was very different. We had a big group of 30 as it was the 50 th Anniversary of the RAF Mountain Rescue Service. We planned to give as many as possible a taste of the Himalayas and took many novices mostly on the Trekking party 15 went on that, led by Danny Daniels one of the troops. They had no porters and had a wild 3 weeks in remote mountain country. The rest of us were on 2 routes on Diran just under 24000 feet a big mountain in wild area of Pakistan. We had no porters after Base Camp just our Sirdar Javed and a cook assistant.

Pakistan is a different place nowadays with the rise of terrorism and the huge changes going on in the World. The travel and arrival in and through Pakistan was a tale on its own but it all went smoothly Javed our Sirdar ensured it all went as well as it could. We went and bought local food for the trip in the markets and myself and Javed built a friendship and trust that was to last the whole 5 weeks of our trip. He was a devout Muslim and prayed regularly and as I had worked in the Gulf in the early 70’s he was surprised I had learnt a bit about his religion, he was a incredible man.

Jabed on my right.

It was a very tricky expedition and the mountain was constantly swept by avalanches but we managed to get three to the summit and more importantly back safely. Dan Carrol, Carl Vander Lee and Guy all summited in poor weather.Sadly after 3 of our group summited

Base camp

After the near miss of the avalanche most of us were very wary and despite this a group of 6 tried for the summit. There camp high up the North Face was not there having been lost in an avalanche and they continued onto the ridge. Where they bivied in snow graves. The summit was hard won on Diran and the descent very tricky in all this was a dangerous mountain and though a success. Unfortunately two Spanish climbers who followed the route up never made it down and were caught out by the weather, avalanches and altitude.

This was a big learning curb for us all and Dan Carrol went on in later years to summit on Everest in 2001 with our RAF Mountain Rescue Expedition to the North Ridge.

The North Face route

Diran Tragedy, 1993.

On page 262 of AAJ, 1993,

There is a reference was made to the death of Spaniards Francesc Xavier Socias and José Carlos Mármol from Mallorca on Diran. The pair was at Camp II on the normal north-face, west-ridge route at 6100 meters on the evening of July 31, 1993 when a severe storm struck with heavy snow and high winds. Gabriel Ordinas and Antoni Pons were at Camp I, hoping to move up the next day. When these finally were able to ascend, they found no trace of Camp II and their companions, who must have either been swept away by an avalanche or buried in the deep new snow.  Sadly our summit team had met them as they descended. We were powerless to help as the mountain was just swept by avalanches all the time. We called in a helicopter but it was too high for it to operate at 20000 feet.

We all felt very helpless. Comments welcome.

About heavywhalley.MBE

Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 37 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 3 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer when body slows, loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Avalanche info, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being. Bookmark the permalink.

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