Karavashin Region, Various Ascents. After a frustrating visit to the neighboring Lailak region where poor weather stopped us from attempting any big objectives, Mark Pretty and I travelled to the superb granite towers of the Karavashin region. Here we set up camp on August 1 in the Ak-Su Valley with John and Anne Arran, the other half of our British team. Among the four of us we made nine new routes in the valley up to 1300 meters long (all figures are the total sum of the climbing) and 5.12 in difficulty. Of particular note was John and Anne’s route The Philosopher’s Stone (5.12b, 1200m), which takes the quartz veins and overlap right of The Great Game (Pritchard-Green, 1997) on the “Wall of Dykes.” The first 250 meters of this was fixed over three days and included the two crux pitches, which involved long runouts above sky hooks. The remainder of the route took one and a half days of sustained climbing, including a junction with The Great Game for its crux pitch.
While participants in the Russian championships taking place in the area suffered on 12-day repeats of existing routes, Mark and I climbed numerous new routes in conventional, fast, one-day style. We also made two more ascents spread out over one and a half days with The Big Joke (5.12a, 1000m), which climbs the Central Pyramid (Pik 3850) 400 meters left of the upper section of Black Magic (Harvey-Donahue, 1997) and The Last Laugh (5.12a, 750m), just to the right of the waterfall on the left-hand side of the “Wall of Dykes.”
After Mark departed early due to illness, I free soloed The Isolationist (5.10, 1300m) on the east face of Kotin in five hours of climbing (13 hours camp-to-camp). For the nine first ascents, we placed a total of four pegs and one hand-drilled bolt, a contrast to many of the recent routes by European visitors. The team eventually departed on September 1, a week earlier than planned, due to an invasion by Taliban guerillas from Afghanistan who kidnapped a Japanese party trekking in the area.
Ian Parnell, United Kingdom