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Asia, USSR, Altai Range

Altai Range. The members of the British Altai Expedition were Duncan Tunstall, Phillip Thomas, Paul Allison and I as leader. The Altai Range is in Southern Siberia near the Mongolian border. The journey from Moscow was undertaken via two domestic jet flights followed by a 30-minute helicopter ride to our base at Ak-Kem Lake. We were to spend 2½ weeks at an International Mountaineering Camp comprising about 25 climbers from the west and 15 or so Soviets. The weather started fine and all the team made a four-hour ascent of the north face of Ak-Ayuk (3700 meters), an ideal training climb. A bleak ten-day period of weather ensued, during which the highest 24-hour precipitation was measured since local weather recordings began in 1958. The campsite was flooded and nearly obliterated by a landslide. The appalling weather frustrated all efforts even to attempt the northeast face of the Peak to Commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the Glorious October Revolution, usually referred to as the 20th October Peak. With only four days left and climbing conditions dangerous after the exceptional snowfall, we all climbed the normal route on Belukha (4506 meters, 14,784 feet), the highest peak in eastern Siberia, a not-too-difficult climb but one requiring a 20-hour round trip from the Tomsk bivouac. On the last available climbing day, conditions improved sufficiently for Turn-stall, Allison and me to make the first Western ascent of the Tomsk ridge on Delone (4200 meters, 13,780 feet), which gave 1100 meters of superb climbing on mixed terrain. Very little in the region has been climbed by Soviet mountaineers and several obvious challenging objectives remain. Starting in 1989, the Soviets hope to provide camp participants with the option of a helicopter flight to the Slavra region of the Altai, about 150 kilometers distant.

Mick Fowler, Alpine Climbing Group