Central Kokshaal-Too, history prior to 2007. With the eastern (Dankova) and western (Kizil Asker) sectors of the Western Kokshaal-too having now been explored by a number of non-CIS climbing parties (beginning with a French-German team to the Dankova region in 1996 and an Anglo-American-German party to the Kizil Asker area in 1997), several recent teams have been investigating the little known central section. Exploration of this compact area of dramatic peaks along the Kyrgyzstan-China border has been dominated by Pat Littlejohn and his International School of Mountaineering (ISM) expeditions. In 2001 a splinter group from one of Littlejohn’s expeditions traveled east to the valley leading up to the Malitskovo Glacier and climbed a 4,850m peak east of the entrance. Littlejohn was back in 2006, establishing a base camp below the Navlikin Glacier to the east, from where he hoped to attempt the first ascent of Pik Byeliy (Grand Poohbah, 5,697m). Byeliy has only seen one serious attempt. In 2000 Jerry Dodrill, Mike Libecki, and Doug and Jed Workman traveled to the Chinese side of the range and climbed 600m up the southwest ridge before being stopped by a lightning storm close to the summit. In 2005 the New Zealand-based team of Paul Knott, Grant Piper, and Graham Rowbotham hoped to climb it from the Fersmana Glacier east of the Malitskovo, but could see no safe lines on the northeast, east, or southern flanks. In 2006 Littlejohn’s team tried to reach unclimbed Pik 5,611m, immediately north of Byeliy, but were stopped by heavy snowfall. Other members climbed peaks lower down the Malitskovo and made attempts on Piks 4,995m and 4,975m. On 4,995m they reached a forepeak but were stopped by the dangerously corniced connecting ridge, while on 4,975m they were turned back at ca 4,900m by the threat of avalanche.
September is generally considered the best month to climb in this area due to more stable weather, lower temperatures, and firmer snow conditions. Howard and Swinburne, judging by their own experiences, would also advocate September as the best time to visit the range.
Lindsay Griffin, Mountain INFO, www.climbmgazine.com