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Asia, Kyrgyzstan, Tien Shan, Central Borkoldoy, Exploration and Various First Ascents

Central Borkoldoy, exploration and various first ascents. The central area of the Borkoldoy range in southeast Kyrgyzstan is a group of superb “alpine” peaks that are well-defended on every side by chains of slightly lower mountains. They are north of the Dankova group in the West Kok- shaal-Too. It has been traveled by a few trekking groups in recent years, but other than one (unsuccessful) attempt by a Russian team on the highest peak (5,170m) there are no known records of previous mountaineering expeditions. Our ISM expedition in September (Adrian Nelhams, Vladimir Komissarov, and I (guides); Ben Box, Steve Brown, James Bruton, Dr. Tom Fox, Phil Naybour, George Ormerod, John Porter, and Nick Wheatley) expected to approach on foot using horses for carrying camp equipment. However, with all our manpower we were able to open up an old geologists’ road made in Soviet times. This led to a broad river delta, which was drivable for 20km to a base camp at 3,570m, where all the main glaciers terminate, making it a fantastic base for exploration.

After reconnaissance, ABC was set up at 4,240m on the right-hand branch of the doubleheaded glacier running southward (we later named this Ilbirs Glacier, after snow-leopard tracks were discovered). Ascents were made of Pk Ilbirs (5,017m, PD+), the big dominant peak on the right side; the obvious rock pyramid on the east side (Zoob Barsa, 4,685m, PD+), and a traverse of Trident Peak (AD) just north of Pk Ilbirs. One team explored the glacier to the west and climbed Pk 4,857m by its west ridge.

Overlooking base camp were rock walls between 100–500m high. These proved to be made of excellent solid limestone and gave two fine routes (E2 and HVS). For the second “foray,” ABCs were set up on the east branch of Ilbirs glacier and the base of Pk 5,170m. Several summits aboveIlbirs E were climbed, including the excellent Dvoinay Vershina (“Twin Peak,” 5,041m). The forepeak of Pk 5,170m gave a pleasant excursion to 4,915m (named Sakchi—Sentry), then a serious attempt was made on Pk 5,170m via a couloir on the west flank to the north ridge. At ca 5,000m the ridge became seriously knife-edged and corniced, and the attempt was abandoned. Three smaller summits on the opposite side of the glacier gave easier days before the expedition decamped. All in all it was a very enjoyable trip to the most remote mountains any of the team had visited (ca 200km to nearest proper village). Sightings of the rare Marco Polo sheep and seeing prints of the exceptionally rare snow leopard were a great privilege.

Pat Littlejohn, United Kingdom