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Outdoor 28 February 2017 Back to list
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Scoumoune (bad luck) - An trip in Pakistan -Mathieu Maynadier

Mathieu Maynadier tells us the story about "Scoumoune" the name of a new route he opened in Pakistan with his friends.

Scoumoune (bad luck) - An trip in Pakistan -Mathieu Maynadier

The teaser !

Hi, Mathieu. Let's start at the beginning. Tell us all about the expedition: the who, the what, the why and the when.

The aim of this journey was to go to the Kondus mountains, which are in north-western Pakistan on the border with India. But there's a lot of tension there as it's a strategic area. India and Pakistan have been arguing over the water there for more than 50 years. Because of that it's one of the most militarized zones in the world, and the two armies are engaging in something of a war of attrition by holding positions at such high altitude.
I've been wanting to go there for years, but it's hard to get permission. The first year we tried it didn't work out, and the second time our permit was cancelled when we got to Pakistan.
This year, at last, we were allowed to enter the Kondus. In the end, we even managed to visit all the valleys we planned to originally.
This year there were four of us: Charlotte Barré, my partner, plus Florence Pinet and Gérome Pouvreau, who are two amazing and committed climbers who we went to Greenland with last year. Guillaume Vallot also came with us to take photos.

Matthieu Maynadier_Scoumoune

What a spectacular scenery

 

Was this a first for you and your teammates? Would you say you were well prepared, or was it more of a speedy departure?



Before this trip we'd all done other Big Walls around the world. And last year we spent a month in Greenland (as part of the Maewan project) to open up new routes, and we also managed to climb Moby Dick, a legendary big wall!
We realised that the four of us got on well and wanted to go on more expeditions together. I told them about Pakistan, which fitted in well with the other projects they were doing.
We were actually quite well prepared. I'd been trying to get permission for three years beforehand.
Also, in Pakistan you can't really do speedy departures because it's a quite a complicated country and you can't travel unsupervised.
We also wanted to go to an area the army clearly did not want us going!  Because of that, it was really fraught at checkpoints. At one point we accidentally entered a key military camp where operations were in full swing. The bosses really didn't like that, especially since there were two women in our group. Can you imagine?!

You mentioned that there were some trials and tribulations before arriving at base camp. Can you tell us a bit more about that?

The army in Pakistan has a lot of power, especially in this area where the military presence is the highest in the world. Nothing really happens there, but the army is everywhere and can randomly refuse to let you through.
So each checkpoint (and there were loads!) could have meant the end of the trip.
Not forgetting the fact we were travelling in one of the poorest regions of the world. So as soon as you start a new leg of your journey, everything starts going wrong: tyres bursting, rock fall, tractors blocking the road… On one occasion we were trying to route plan but because we had to stop every 5km to pump the tyres up, we gave up in the end.

We're interested to know, what does this sort of expedition require in terms of logistics? How much equipment did you take with you ?

There are two sides to it. Half of it is managed by a local agency. That includes everything you need to survive at base camp, so the base camp tents, the cooking tents, the mess tent, all the food, the stoves, the solar panels. All that weighs between 500kg and a ton, depending on the expedition. What we do is manage all the climbing gear, our food for the wall and comfort foods for base camp, so cold meats, cheese and sweet stuff.

For projects like this there's loads of gear because you spend a lot of time on the rock face. We had quite a few ropes and portaledges (editor's note: these are tents that fix to the wall to sleep in, and are also used as belaying platforms). Overall we had 13 bags each weighing 23kg, plus easily 15kg each of hand luggage. It was complete chaos! We also had a last-minute situation to deal with. Our airport driver deserted us so the five of us had to pack 500kg of gear into one Peugeot 207… It was a very tight squeeze, and we got a lot of strange looks on the motorway!

 

scoumoune_julbo

How to start a trip.

How long did it take you to complete the route in the end? (And how many nights on the portaledge?)

Because we were so delayed in getting to base camp, we had to speed things up a little on the actual climb. We spent another two days deciding which circuit to take (we named the route "Chimera"). Then we started to climb up from a camp we'd set up at the bottom. We went up one by one so we could acclimatise.
Then I twisted my ankle during a bad fall, so the others carried on fixing the lines but still heading up from the bottom. That also gave us the chance to slow down a bit. We hadn't had a rest day since the start so we were knackered! I don't think it was a coincidence that I fell.

When the weather was better we went back to the face and stayed on the portaledges for three days. The first time we headed up to the summit it poured down with rain! Because of that, we went up via the easiest route.
We went back to base camp to wait for the weather to improve, then headed up again for three more days with the aim of climbing more pitches and trying to open up a more direct route to the top.
And also, we had to remove all our gear (editor's note: leave nothing on the route and take all equipment with you).

 

 Matthieu Maynadier_Scoumoune

Life on the edge.

Will there be more climbs? We await the next episode!


During this trip we kind of ran out of time. We were really far into it by the time we actually got to climb. For that reason, the route we climbed was great but not as difficult as we'd have hoped.
The plan is to go back!

I'm going to Pakistan this summer but for a different kind of trip; to ski the 8000m G2 (Gasherbrum II). After that I'll stay there for a while to plan a route up in a valley where we saw some really lovely rock faces. The idea is for us four to go again in 2018. We'll keep you posted!

Matthieu Maynadier_Scoumoune

Do you spot the three colored dots ? They are the portalegdes.

 

Matthieu Maynadier_Scoumoune

The whole team at the top of Scoumoune route.


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