Koh-i-Tej is one of the smaller, less tecnical peaks in the Panjshir, a valley deep within the Hindu Kush around 3 hours drive north of Kabul. due to the last 25 years of war in Afghanistan i can fairly accurately say that this mountain hasn't been climbed during this time. There was no cairn at the summit and i suspect that our ascent was the first winter ascent. After many hours searching the web for beta on climbing in Afghanistan i have only come up with a handful of attempts on Mir Samir, a 6000m peak further up the Panjshir that was made famous by Eric Newby in his book 'Short Walk in The Hindu Kush'. i heard rumours it's been climbed but haven't been able to find any logged ascents. the only mountain i have found logged ascents of is Norshaq, up in Badakhshan. i know more peaks have been summited but have no beta.
as for Koh-i-Tej, we took a very physical and not technical route up the east ridge from aout base camp at 4200m. it was generally plugging up steep snow slopes and a bit of scrambling with just the odd secction of semi technical climbing.
this mountain was chosen as we were fairly certain there were no mine fields on the route we took, it was easily acessible from kabul and we could climb it in the 3 or 4 days that we had available. we also chose an easy peak as neither Jaymo nor myself had climbed in afghanistan before.
physically getting to the base of the peak is simple. from kabul you drive up to the panjshir valley. continue up to the village of Bazarak where you turn right up the Darra Parendey. you then follow this narrow road to the end. here you follow the shepherds trail which continues up the valley till you reach a steep valley on the right. the Darra Hara Chisma. this leads up to a large bowl where we set up our base camp. the less technical peak to the west is Koh-i-Tej. the steeper peak to the east is koh-i-Sia.
the difficult part is getting the permission to go and to be there. there are no climbing permits in afghanistan. however, due to the tribal nature of this country you need to have the permission of the locals to be there. that basically involves finding someone of sufficient importance and standing in the community you wish to climb and getting there permission to be there. that way if there is any issues about you being there they can back you up. it's kind of complex and involves countless cups of chai but it the way it works in afghanistan.
we undertook extensive reasearch into the mine situation before we left which involved talking to the UN Mine action centre for afghanistan as well as a number of locals who knew this valley well. there are also issues in getting through a number of checkpoints and you generally need to have the permission of a prominant local to do so.
there are no formal permits required. however, you basically need to be sponsored by a local who has the power and will to back you up should anyone in the area disbute you right to be there.
When To Climb
we climbed it in november. however i believe it would be much less physical if climbed in the summer, from june to sept before the first snow.
there are no huts, camp grounds, fees or anything official. there is a guest house a little further up the valley from bazarak in a small village called changaram.
i would not recommend camping anywhere in the vacinity of the local population without their expressive permission. onece off the main trails there's generally no one to object you being there so there shouldn't be any problems.
however, once again, the whole process involves an informal sponsorship type of arrangement by a prominant local.