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Asia, Kyrgyzstan, Pamir Alai, Borkoldoy Range, Central Borkoldoy, Pik Tansovsitsa, North Ridge; Alpinistka, West Ridge; Pik Koldunia, South Ridge; "Pik Borkoldoy," South Ridge

Central Borkoldoy, Pik Tansovsitsa, north ridge; Alpinistka, west ridge; Pik Koldunia, south ridge; “Pik Borkoldoy” south ridge. The central area of the Borkoldoy Range in southeast Kyrgyzstan is a collection of superb alpine peaks, which are well defended on every side by chains of slightly lower mountains. While it has been visited by a few trekking groups in recent years, the only known mountaineering expeditions have been a Russian attempt on the highest peak (5,171m) in 2003 and our party from the International School of Mountaineering (ISM) in 2004.

ISM returned in September 2005, the team comprising Ben Box, James Bruton, Peter Kemble, Mark Samuels, Bill Thompson, and Dr. Jane Whitmore, with guides Vladimir Komissarov, Adrian Nelhams, and I. In 2004 we had to work hard to re-open an old geologists’ track in order to access the area by 6WD vehicle. This year we were pleased to find our work intact and were able to reach the broad river delta quickly, then drive easily for another 20km to base camp at 3,570m. From there glaciers radiate like spokes of a wheel, approximately eight being within easy walking distance. As each is surrounded by great peaks, this is an exceptional expedition venue.

We established advanced base at 4,240m on Ilbirs Glacier West, from where Nelhams, Samuels, and Thompson climbed the north ridge of the big peak on the left (east) side of the glacier, Pik Tansovsitsa (4,91 lm, Alpine AD). Higher up the same glacier Box, Bruton, Whitmore and I made several attempts and then finally succeeded on the west ridge of Alpinistka (4,959m; D).

After a spell of rock climbing on the 150m limestone crag above base camp, Nelhams, Kemble, Komissarov, Samuels, and Thompson turned their attention to the previously untouched “Hidden Glacier” north of base camp. Over the following days they climbed four fine peaks, the highest and most difficult being Pik Koldunia (4,895m), by the south ridge, at AD+.

The main objective for my team was Pik 5,171m, on which Box, Bruton, and I had been turned back the previous year at 5,000m on the north ridge (AAJ 2005 p. 339-340). This year, in better snow conditions, we were able to try the snowy northeast flank, picking the safest line through big seracs. We reached the south ridge at 5,000m and followed it on perfect névé to the summit. Though very arduous, the route was technically straightforward at PD+. We gave the peak the name “Pik Borkoldoy,” as it is the highest in the range. Clear weather on the summit gave stunning views of the Western Kokshaal-Too and unexplored peaks in the eastern sector of the Borkoldoy, some of which look very inviting.

The trip was rounded off with a brief stay at Lake Issyk-Kul, where the swimming was still pleasant in late September, and our stone-walled hotel gave good training for the keen rock climbers in the team.

Pat Littlejohn, United Kingdom