Rebecca Coles and James Kitson have climbed a remote Hindu Kush summit at the head of the rarely visited Raij Jurm Valley in Afghanistan's Wakhan Corridor.
This valley was visited on several occasions during the 1970s, notably in 1972 when an Italian team summited nine peaks, and in 1977 when a Polish expedition climbed several more and also repeated some ascents made by the Italians.
Coles and Kitson appear to have made the second ascent of Koh-e-Sauz (given as 5,680m on the Russian map, but in this area Russian heights are usually a little lower than the correct altitude). Italians Lino Bortolami (leader), Alfredo dal Santo, Paoli Lion, Ugo Quintily and Elide Veronese made the first ascent in August 1972.
Coles and Kitson are on a six-month trip to Asia and before visiting Afghanistan, the pair made an attempt on the last remaining unclimbed 6,000m summit in Tajikistan's Muzkol Range.
For both this and the Afghan expedition Coles was supported by the MEF. In addition she was the recipient of this year's Jeremy Willson Mountain Exploration Grant, and the Julie Tullis Memorial Award.
Unfortunately, logistics and snow conditions led to the Muzkol trip being unsuccessful.
Accessing these remote mountains from the north involves crossing a 5,100m pass, and local muleteers, carrying the expedition equipment, abandoned the British team well before reaching it. Consequently, they had to spend three days ferrying loads over the pass to establish a suitable base camp.
A reconnaissance of the unclimbed peak showed two possible lines, which were either threatened by seracs or simply far too difficult.
The other option was to cross a 5,500m pass into another valley and approach the summit from the back. Despite a steep section to gain the ridge, this seemed viable.
However, after crossing the pass and gaining the steep section, the two met poor snow conditions and decided to turn back.
Needing three extra days to extract themselves from base camp to the roadhead, they were left with only one day spare to attempt something else.
An unclimbed peak close to base camp seemed the most promising, but after a pleasant scramble, the two were defeated close to the summit by a band of very poor rock.
Despite these setbacks, they enjoyed the trip: the mountains were beautiful and they were privileged to see much rare wildlife, including Marco Polo Sheep.
In contrast to the muleteers of Muzkol, those of the Wakhan couldn't have been more obliging, delivering Coles and Kitson to a great base camp at 4,200m in the Raij Jurm Valley.
Their first attempt on Koh-e-Sauz took them through a series of huge crevasses to a high camp at c5,000m, where they sat through a bad snowstorm for four days before retreating to base.
After two days' rest the weather turned glorious and this time the pair was able to push beyond high camp to a col on the frontier ridge, west of the peak.
The ridge above sported an outcrop of rotten rock, above which they traversed left across bullet-hard ice to reach more reasonable terrain on the North Face.
Following these slopes to the summit, they were rewarded with magnificent views of the giant Pakistan peaks of the Hindu Kush to the south, and the Tajik Pamirs across the Oxus River to the north. The route was PD+ (though they reckon the highly crevassed approach to high camp was at least AD+).
The highest peak of the valley, Koh-e-Jurm I (c6,000m), lies on the western rim and was first climbed in 1969 by Japanese, approaching from the Pakistan side. Several other peaks on the rim have also been climbed from adjacent valleys but it is thought that several minor summits remain virgin.
Back in Dushanbe, they began the job of collecting all remaining visas for their overland backpacking return to the UK.
The photograph shows Rebecca Coles on the summit of Koh-e-Sauz (c5,700m)with the 7,020m Akher Cioch (left) and Koh-e-Tez (6,995m)