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Asia, Kyrgyzstan, Western Kokshaal-Too, Navlikin and Malitskovo Glaciers, First Ascents

Navlikin and Malitskovo glaciers, first ascents. At the start of September our ISM expedition made the now-familiar trip via Naryn to the Kokshaal-Too and established base camp at the delightful lake below the west side of the Navlikin Glacier. The team comprised Ulrik Andersen, Ben Box, James Bruton, Joanne da Silva, Greg Paul, Todd Siemers, Nick Wheatley, and guides Adrian Nelhams, Vladimir Komissarov, and I.

On our first full day all of us walked five hours up the glacier to reconnoiter objectives and acclimatize. After this the weather closed in, and it snowed heavily for 24 hours, putting 30cm of snow at base camp and considerably more at higher altitudes. Once the weather cleared, we made an exploratory trip to the Malitskovo Glacier immediately east, which revealed a cluster of excellent unclimbed peaks. After a “council of war,” one team led by me attempted Pik 5,611m, the peak next to Pik Byeliy (a.k.a. Grand Poohbah, 5,697m) at the head of the Navlikin, while two other teams led by Nelhams and Komissarov attempted peaks around the Malitskovo.

It took two days for da Silva, Box, Bruton, and I to establish a camp at 4,650m below Pik 5,61lm, but we were then pinned down for the next three days by evil weather. Most slopes were then even more heavily laden and avalanche-prone than before. We climbed to ca 4,850m but turned back when the depth of unstable snow reached the handles of trekking poles. At night wind gusts were like express trains, but we had a bombproof tent (Bruton’s Hillenberg). On the plus side, da Silva taught us to play Bridge, which gave some in-tent entertainment. A tent fire also enlivened proceedings. Finally, there was a brief clearing, and we climbed a small peak above camp (Pt. Argon, 4,880m), before heading down when food ran out. On the way back to base we had a fantastic day, making the first traverse of Macciato Peak (4,656m), nine hours of fine mountaineering along a sharp crest.

Meanwhile, the other teams had been attempting five peaks above the Malitskovo Glacier. Here the weather was much better, it being lower and farther north. Byeliy seems to hold its own weather system and often be in a storm cloud when everything lower is clear. Andersen, Komissarov, and Paul climbed Pik Ascha (4,717m) and the more distant Pik Novey (4,760m). Nelhams, Siemers, and Wheatley then joined them for an ascent of Pik Berum (4,812m).

The dominant peak of this glacier is the superb, fin-like Pik 4,996m. Nelhams, Siemers, and Wheatley climbed the east flank of this, and then followed the sharp north ridge to a ca 4,940m forepeak just short of the summit, where they were stopped by lack of time and 300m of dangerously corniced ridge ahead. They propose the name Pik Kanashay (Queen). Finally, Andersen, Nelhams, and Paul reached 4,900m on Pik 4,975m but turned back because of avalanche danger. The expedition was felt to be excellent and memorable, despite not achieving the major objective of Byeliy.

Pat Littlejohn, Alpine Club