Weekend Warm-Up: Skiing Noshaq

Almost 50 years ago, members of the Innsbruck Academic Alpine Club set off in two Volkswagen buses on a month-long, 10,000km road trip to Afghanistan to be the first to ski from the summit of Mount Noshaq (7,492m), the country’s highest peak.

At the time no one had skied a mountain that high.

Their adventure took them from Austria through Greece, Turkey and Iran and the ancient cities of Istanbul, Tehran and Kabul.

Fast forward to 2014, when a team of five Swiss adventurers became aware of the Austrian exploits after reading an article in the Alpine Journal from 1972. They managed to track down one of the original expedition members, famous mountain guide and meteorologist, Karl Gabl.

From Gabl, the group found out that the 1970 expedition was recorded in a Super8 movie by team member Hans-Jorg Moser. Amazed by the quality and intensity of Moser’s work, the Swiss decided retrace the original expedition.

Mount Noshaq. Photo: Telegraph

The politics of the region in the 21st century, however, was a far cry from that in 1970. Countries were now plagued by civil war, religious oppression and terrorism, which led to a closed border from Iran into Afghanistan.

Not to be thwarted, the group plotted a route that would take them from Iran through the former Soviet states of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to the small village of Qazi Deh in northeast Afghanistan, thereby avoiding Kabul and Taliban strongholds. From Qazi Deh, they would undertake a three-day trek with 30 porters to reach their base camp at 4,800m, where the real test would begin.

The 2015 route taken to avoid Kabul and Taliban strongholds. Photo: arnaudcottet.com

En route they planned to climb and ski Mt Olympus in Greece, Mt Süphan in Turkey and Mt Damavand in Iran in preparation for Noshaq.

What happened was, in their words, “a beautiful human experience.”

The video below is the account of that experience.