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Asia, Kyrgyzstan, Tien Shan – Tourugart-too, Jumar Tau and Bar Tau; Peaks East of Naryn, Naryn Tau

Jumar Tau and Bar Tau; peaks east of Naryn, Naryn Tau. With Dave Moles-worth and Misha Sukhorukov I made my second visit to Kyrgyzstan’s mountains, this time exploring the Torugart-too (Khrebet Torugart), which lies close to the Torugart Pass into China. Discovering that Pat Littlejohn’s ISM expedition had visited the area in 2007, we moved our primary goal away from the highest peaks climbed by ISM (AAJ 2008), and focused on the western extension of the range, which we believe was previously unvisited by mountaineers.

We acclimatized in the At Bashi range, which still has a myriad of hard, unclimbed peaks of ca 4,800m. We then drove off-road for more than 30km across a huge flood plain at 3,200m; extracting Misha’s Lada Niva from numerous snow-filled drainage channels proved some of the hardest work of the trip. An access valley took us to a hunting lodge, where visitors pay $25,000 to shoot Marco Polo sheep. The caretakers said we were the first climbers they had seen. We selected two distinctive peaks above, our first attempt failing on a long pinnacled ridge. We turned to the next peak west and climbed it via an easy plod. There was no evidence of it having been climbed previously, and we named it after our host at the lodge, Jumar Tau (4,743m altimeter reading; N 74°49'40", E 40°32'12" Google Earth coordinates). For this our host rewarded us with a cow-dung-fired sauna.

We returned to the first peak and climbed through a glacial bowl to reach the west ridge, which gave a fine route through tottering towers, up a steep couloir, and steep scrambling on shattered rock. The summit, marked as 4,743m on the Soviet map, we named after the poor beasts hunted below, which I can only hope are protected in some measure by the exorbitant value people place on shooting them: Bar (Marco Polo) Tau (4,720m altimeter; N 74°47'45" E 40°32'24" Google Earth).

We moved on to peaks nearer Naryn, for no better reason than we fancied a couple of beers. Again, there is no record of ascents east of town. After driving for an hour, we came to a track leading into an idyllic wooded valley. At its head we were spoiled with choices, with many 4,400-4,500m peaks visible. Our first foray misfired on an impossible-looking ridge, but Misha and I returned next day to what appeared to be the highest peak in the area. We climbed it via the east ridge, which while not technically difficult, was steep, with loose, avalanche-prone snow. From the top it was apparent that the map was highly inaccurate, both in terms of height and the location of surrounding mountains, which is unusual for the Soviet Military series. My altimeter read 4,505m at the summit. This corresponds with the highest peak marked on the Soviet map, but in the wrong place. An American military map puts the high point at 4,620m, and Google Earth at 4,200m. We named it Naryn Tau (ca 4,500m; N 76°27'30", E 41°21'00" Google Earth). It is the highest summit at the head of the Kandy valley, which rises from the village of Imeni Kalinina.

We visited these areas in late April-early May and experienced Scottish spring conditions: four seasons every day and heavy snowfall once a week. We had assumed it would freeze every night above 3,500m, but it didn’t. However, this was another great trip to a remote, enchanted land. If you go with a local mountaineer—not as qualified guide but as companion and fixer— you’ll have a great time.

Mark Weeding, U.K.